Murder With All the Trimmings
Obsidian, Nov 2008, $6.99
Mystery shopper Josie Marcus is having problems getting into the holiday spirits. Her boyfriend Mike invested $20,000 in the mother of his daughter Heather’s- year round Christmas store. Josie does not like Heather because she is nasty towards Josie’s younger daughter Amelia. Naughty or Nice is not doing well because a rival shop Elsie’s Elf House opened nearby and a third Christmas store is in the same tiny vicinity.
Josie has no time to worry about Mike, his investment or his cruel daughter. The father of her child Nate has just been released from a Canadian prison after a decade of incarceration for selling drugs. He threatens Josie with a custody suit and implies he could abduct their daughter. They have a shouting match that Josie’s neighbor hears. When a drunken Nate comes to Josie’s house with a chocolate Santa, Josie refuses to let him enter. He eats the pastry; later Josie finds him unconscious. At the hospital, a toxicologist report says he imbibed anti-freeze just like a woman who ate a the same pstry from the same place. Josie and Mike are under suspicion so she seeks proof to back up her theory as to who the killer is.
Elaine Viets writes exciting amateur sleuth mysteries filled with believable characters; the recurring cast starting with Josie adds a sense of friendship that in turn embellishes the feeling of realism. A single mom, Josie knows she must care for Amanda first even before her desires. It is interesting how “blind” Mike is to his daughter’s antipathy towards his girlfriend and her offspring. Nate is slime and in death he still causes the heroine problems. Althought the whodunit is a bit light, the relationships crises add delightful trimmings to the murder investigation.