CHRISTMAS MITTENS MURDER by Lee Hollis, Lynn Cahoon and Maddie Day; Kensington Publishing, 2023; 344 pages, $27; ISBN 978-1-4967-4424-1.


Christmas should be a time of joyous simple pleasures; after all “what other time of the year do you sit in front of a dead tree in your living room eating candy out of your socks.” Unless Santa and murder both come calling.

This book presents a trio of short murder-mystery novellas just in time for Christmas, featuring three well-known cozy-mystery writers who offer clever tales of holiday mayhem, malice and mittens.

“Death of a Christmas Mitten Knitter” by Lee Hollis is set in Bar Harbor at a church fund-raising holiday bazaar where theft, murder and wild accusations spoil the fun. Local sleuth Haley Powell investigates a bitter feud between two mitten-knitting clubs — the Crochet Mafia and the Happy Hookers — a nasty, petty rivalry that results in a theft, a stabbing and a frame-up, revealing Bar Harbor’s mitten-knitting women to be a spiteful, snarky bunch capable of anything.

“Murderous Mittens” by Maddie Day finds twin sisters Cece and Allie stuck in the curious murder mystery of a bludgeoned bartender (who nobody liked), and the murder weapon is a Christmas mitten. Allie is accused of the murder, but Cece discovers a long list of likely suspects and compelling motives, and must act fast to protect her sister and flush out the killer.

Finally, “Two Christmas Mittens” by Lynn Cahoon is an off-beat but unconvincing mystery loaded with oddball characters, witchcraft, curses, magic potions, supernatural hocus-pocus, and a warning from the National Office of Regrettable Events. The only things missing are broomsticks and flying monkeys. At an Idaho Christmas party, the discovery of a dead body and a single red mitten stir a witches’ coven into action to find a killer, reverse a curse and save an innocent woman.


So, go ahead and be naughty — save Santa the trip.


New Gloucester author Allison Vallin Kostovick has a sound philosophy about gardening: “Let’s focus on nourishing ourselves as much as we nourish that prize-winning tomato.” And her debut book teaches how to relax, enjoy and be patient with gardening work and the results.

THE GARDEN MAKER’S BOOK OF WONDER: 162 RECIPES, CRAFTS, TIPS, TECHNIQUES, AND PLANTS TO INSPIRE YOU IN EVERY SEASON by Allison Vallin Kostovick; Storey Publishing, 2023; 245 pages, $30; ISBN 978-1-63586-531-8.

This is a well-crafted product of garden articles, tips, quips, projects, recipes and best, how to have fun and find peace in your garden no matter how big or small. It is beautifully supplemented with full-color photographs and illustrations.

Kostovick is an organic gardener, garden photographer, art director for “The Farmer’s Almanac,” and creator of the “Finch+Folly” educational website. She loves her work, knows what she’s doing and is a talented writer, too. The book is organized into four major chapters: spring,
summer, autumn and winter. Each chapter then features sub-sections like vegetables, herbs and flowers, recipes, crafts and projects, bird friends and foraging. She also includes numerous sidebars of iinteresting factoids like “To Till or Not to Till.”

She recognizes that gardening can be a lot of hard work, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed with chores. Her solution: Slow down, take your time, rest often and enjoy the sights, sounds, smells and “everyday magic” that a garden provides. She tells how and why birds and insects are your friends, what to plant to attract pollinators, what flowers are easy to grow and good to eat, how to gather and store seeds, and why summer is “a harvest for the soul.”

Learn about “companion planting,” how to make a bug hotel, how to make garlic soup (no kidding), which herb is the “poor man’s saffron” and when stinging nettles stop stinging.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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