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At this point you are probably pretty tired of the whole holiday season and waiting only for it to finally be over. But please join me for one last Christmas cocktail party guaranteed to leave you fit for driving, or operating machinery, and not a whit heavier than when you arrived.

There are hundreds of mysteries with a holiday theme (see Mystery Fanfare for a complete listing, by author: A-D, E-H, I-N, O-R, and S-Z.) Trying to pick just a few is getting harder every year. Last year there were some from Anne Perry, and before that there was M.C. Beaton's A Highland Christmas. This year I tried to include an Agatha Raisin Christmas mystery, but I just could not get past my initial dislike of the character. Perhaps next year I will be in a better frame of mind.

But before you stop at the bar for your choice of beverage, please come and look at the White Christmas that I have been able to enjoy here in the Northeast. I have been visiting all month and am getting ready to return home on Saturday. Ed and I traveled for years trying to find snow. We visited his daughter in Minnesota in November, and again in January, looking and failing to find any snow. We went to Alaska, and then to Scotland, willing to settle for just overcast and rainy skies. No luck. Blue skies, lots of sun even if the days were short. It became a standing joke that we had this strange weather karma, that allowed sunshine to follow us wherever we'd go.

Well, this month, I got snow! From the window's of my step-daughter's living room in Buzzard's Bay, MA:

Falling snow from behind dual pane windows.

And then, on a day trip up to Maine, we stopped for a break at a rest area:

Newly fallen snow at a highway rest stop.

So, welcome to my White Christmas Cocktail Party! The specials this evening are an effervescent Champaign Cocktail, Eggnog and a Martini. Enjoy.

The Twelve Clues of Christmas
By: Rhys Bowen
Publisher: Berkley Hardcover, Penguin Group
November 6th 2012
311 pages

The one that I enjoyed the most this year was The Twelve Clues of Christmas, by Rhys Bowen. Michlewln wrote a diary about this series staring "Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, daughter to the Duke of Glen Garry and Rannoch and thirty-fourth in line to the throne of England. " Her Royal Spyness was the first, which I read in May of 2012 as part of my look back at British women in mysteries between the wars. Like michelewln, I enjoy this series, and when I found The Twelve Clues of Christmas this year, I clicked the BUY button before I even knew what it was about.

Lady Georgiana, once again escaping the drafty Scottish castle that is now owned and occupied by her brother and his miserly wife, responds to an ad placed by Lady Hawse-Gorzley who is looking for help managing her guests during a Christmas house party in Tiddleton-under-Lovey. Coincidently, her mother and Noel Coward are sharing a nearby cottage, working on a new play and being looked after by Georgie's grandfather and his lady friend from Essex.

Within three days of her arrival in the picturesque little village in Devonshire, three people are dead and the trend does not seem to be changing. There is talk in the village of a recent prison break, but the deaths look like they may have been accidental. Unable to ignore the deaths, Georgie, assisted by her unerringly un-intrepid maid, Queenie, begins to snoop.

Meanwhile, Darcy, who is a nephew of Lady Hawse-Gorzley, shows up for the house party with his cousin, even though he was supposed to have been traveling through South America. And with his arrival the cast is complete and the stage is set for a Christmas holiday that includes a fancy dress ball and an unforgettable evening of wassailing. And of course, murder.

Rhys Bowen, in this series, but especially in this book, captures some of the madcap gaiety of Bringing Up Baby, and combines it with a touch of The Thin Man to produce a holiday read that is as sparkling and refreshing as a champaign cocktail.

I listened to the audiobook of this novel narrated by Katherine Kellgren, who does an outstanding job and reads Georgie with a refined, sophisticated accent, reminiscent of Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. The Irish, cockney, and American accents are pitch perfect and her comedic timing impeccable. It was so good that I immediately spent credits on the other books in this series.

Christmas Mourning
By: Margaret Maron
Publisher: Hatchette Group
November 5, 2010
304 Pages

This is the 16th in the Judge Deborah Knott and Sheriff's Deputy Dwight Bryant series. Judge Deborah Knott is the 12th child of a former bootlegger which leaves her with a family that is larger than most small towns, and whose members populate all of her novels, but especially this one, which shares its focus on family with the lifestyle of today's teenagers.

The first anniversary of the Knott/Bryant marriage is approaching just before Christmas as a young, popular cheerleader dies in a tragic automobile accident. Or what appears to be a tragic accident; she did not drink or take drugs, so the fact that she had just left a team party should not have had anything to do with the single car accident. Perhaps it was a deer in the road. Or perhaps not.

While Dwight is investigating the death, two trailer-park brothers are found shot, diverting his efforts. Deborah mines the conversation of her teen-aged nieces who have joined her for her annual Christmas Cookie baking afternoon, for any clues as to how the car accident might have occurred.

This is a popular series, peopled with the residents of Colleton County, North Carolina. I have not read any of the other entries, but the books of most series can be read alone, especially those with a holiday theme. This one, with its huge cast of characters was the exception. One probably should read it in sequence with the other novels of the series.

I was struck by the emphasis that the author put on the fact that the new District Attorney was a Democrat who was lazy, and appointed a bunch of prosecutors who were also lazy Democrats. This was repeated three times within the novel, but was neither a red herring nor in any way germane to the plot. As a reader, I was left to wonder if it was a gratuitous political put-down of half of the American people, or part of some insider joke within the series.

This read definitely put me in mind of Christmas eggnog made with the thick sweet eggnog from the supermarket and a decent bourbon.

The Spy Who Came for Christmas
By: David Morrell
Publisher: Vanguard Press
October 28, 2008
220 pages

I generally associate Christmas novels with cozy writers, already known for that warm fuzzy feeling they impart. I did not expect to find a thriller, written by David Morrell, that would contain a Christmas message.

But David Morrell surprised me. The Spy Who Came for Christmas is a tense thriller novel that opens on Christmas Eve on Canyon Street in Santa Fe during the annual luminaria display. Paul Kagan, son of Russian immigrants, recruited to serve undercover in the Russian Mafia, is tightly clutching the squirming package that the gang was meant to steal as he dodges the crowds and the paper-bag lights of the festive holiday.

When he made his break from the gang, his jacket pocket was ripped open, costing him his cell phone, although the earpiece and mic that connect him with the boss remained intact and allowed him to hear the frantic efforts of his betrayed comrades to chase him, and the package, down. Seeking a quiet place to hide out and contact the authorities, he stumbles into the house of a woman and her son, who have faced their own trauma that evening from an abusive husband and father.

During the night's events, Kagan re-tells the story of the Three Maji as spies sent to infiltrate and bring down Herod's reign. I thought that there was good and bad in this novel, but I can't really say much more without getting into spoiler territory. The pacing was good, the story interesting, the conclusion acceptable but there were some issues I had with the view of domestic violence as presented by David Morrell. Presenting the Three Maji as spies was highly creative and very well done.

And so it is the martini, but a vodka martini on the rocks. Personally, I prefer a gin martini shaken and poured into a tall, elegant martini glass, but I know there are many who prefer theirs with vodka on ice. Just as there are some thriller readers who would enjoy this unique twist on a Christmas mystery.

What's in your liquor cabinet this Holiday Season?

Readers & Book Lovers Series Schedule:






DAY TIME (EST/EDT) Series Name Editor(s)
SUN 6:00 PM Young Reader's Pavilion The Book Bear
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Sundays
2:00 PM What's on Your E-Reader? Caedy
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Sundays
2:00 PM Bibliophile's Wish List Caedy
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Sundays
4:00 PM Political Books Susan from 29
Sun 9:30 PM SciFi/Fantasy Book Club quarkstomper
Bi-Monthly Sun Midnight Reading Ramblings don mikulecky
MON 8:00 PM Monday Murder Mystery michelewln, Susan from 29
Mon 11:00 PM My Favorite Books/Authors edrie, MichiganChet
TUES 5:00 PM Indigo Kalliope: Poems from the Left bigjacbigjacbigjac
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM LGBT Literature Texdude50, Dave in Northridge
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM All Things Bookstore Dave in Northridge
Tue 8:00 PM Contemporary Fiction Views bookgirl
WED 7:30 AM WAYR? plf515
Wed 2:00 PM e-books Susan from 29
Wed 8:00 PM Bookflurries Bookchat cfk
THU 8:00 PM Write On! SensibleShoes
Thu (first each month) 11:00 AM Monthly Bookpost AdmiralNaismith
alternate Thursdays 11:00 PM Audiobooks Club SoCaliana
FRI 8:00 AM Books That Changed My Life Diana in NoVa
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Fridays
8:00 PM Books Go Boom! Brecht
Fri 10:00 PM Slightly Foxed -- But Still Desirable shortfinals
SAT (fourth each month) 11:00 AM Windy City Bookworm Chitown Kev
Sat 12:00 PM You Can't Read That! Paul's Book Reviews pwoodford
Sat 9:00 PM Books So Bad They're Good Ellid

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