(I wrote this review for Sleuth Cafe . Please check out the site with all their reviews and lots of information about books.)
Christmas is quickly approaching and Charlie Parker is looking forward to the holiday at her home in New Mexico. Her mother-in-law, Catherine, will be staying with Charlie and hubby Drake so they can celebrate together as a family.
But Charlie isn’t the only one that will have a mother-in-law visiting. The Parker’s new next door neighbor, Judy Garland, is also expecting her mother-in-law to visit for the holiday and Judy is far from happy about that. Her husband, Wilbur, seems like a mild-mannered man but his mother, Paula Candelaria, is the exact opposite of her son.
Judy and Wilbur take Paula to the neighborhood’s cookie swap giving all of Judy’s new neighbors a real eye full. Paula entered wearing 4 inch heels, a strapless red satin dress, her hair held in place by a huge poinsettia, and to say she was a little loud would be an understatement. Both Judy and Wilbur tried to keep an eye on her but both looked liked they’d rather run away and hide.
During the following days, Paula does a nice job in forcing her way into Charlie’s household too. Somehow she weaseled her way in, made herself right at home, and got Charlie’s mother – in -law, Catherine to take her Christmas shopping.
But everyone thought there was something odd about Paula. At times she was the life of the party, sauntering around and flirting with every male she met. Hey, she was married quite a few times so she enjoyed the company of the opposite sex. Yet there were times Paula seemed a bit glum but a fast trip to the ladies room always perked her right up. What was so perky in the bathroom? Did the mirrors make her look better or was it something she brought in with her to use in private? Oh, something to think about.
Let’s be honest, very few people cared for Paula. She got on everyone’s nerves especially her daughter – in – law, Judy.
Judy had gone to visit Charlie one day to just to get away from Paula. The two neighbors were joking around thinking of ways to do Paula in, so to speak. But they were just fooling around. No one really wanted to kill Paula, at least that’s what they thought. But things turned out to be not so funny when Paula actually turned up dead in Judy and Wilbur’s living room one night.
Judy and Wilbur went to a friend’s house for dinner and when they got home Paula was dead. Someone hit her over the head. Who could of done it and why? Well, really, anyone could have killed the obnoxious woman. No one liked her and she gave everyone who knew her a reason to feed her to the sharks. But somehow the police arrested daughter – in – law Judy for the foul deed even though Judy was with Wilbur at a friend’s house. A solid alibi, right? Evidence doesn’t lie though and the cops had plenty of evidence pointing straight in Judy’s direction.
Charlie didn’t believe that her neighbor, Judy, killed Paula so she decided, with the okay of her brother the owner of a private investigator business, to allow her to do some pro bono work to prove Judy’s innocence. So off flies Charlie to sunny California to question some old friends Paula had there and to see what Paula’s ex husband was up to.
“Holidays Can Be Murder” by Connie Shelton is a Charlie Parker Novella running about 150 pages or so. It’s a fast read and gets to the point of the story quickly. Of course Ms. Shelton has to give a little background about Charlie and her family for those of us who might not have read any books in this series but the background is long enough to get readers into the story and short enough so that previous fans aren’t bored.
Like all good cozies we have a private investigator who loves to cook and gladly shares her recipes with the readers. Yes, there are recipes in this novella.
There isn’t a lot of rehashing of what we’ve learned about the story so we’re spared hearing three or four times of what went on already. Why do writers insist on repeating things that happened pages before? Do readers forget from one minute to the next? I don’t know but at least Ms. Shelton spares us the rehashing.
This novella is short and sweet and comes to the conclusion quickly. The ending is satisfying and has a good twist for an ending. I didn’t really see it coming until close to the time it was exposed.
I enjoyed “Holidays Can Be Murder.” The characters were friendly enough and learning about the Christmas traditions in New Mexico were interesting. Would I read another Charlie Parker book? Heck yeah. It’s the perfect cozy; fun characters, mean characters we like to hate, nice setting, and plenty of food. No disappointments here. Thoroughly enjoyable.