Yule Be Dead
Victoria Square, Book #5
By Lorraine Bartlett and Gayle Leeson
Author Website: lorrainebartlett(.)com, gayleleeson(.)com
A Christmas crime shocks the merchants of a quaint shopping district in this latest installment of The New York Times bestselling Victoria Square series.
It’s Christmastime, but not everyone is jolly–especially not Vonne Barnett. Her dead body has been found in Victoria Square. Katie Bonner, the manager of Artisan’s Alley, happens to be at the tea shop Vonne’s mother, Francine, owns when the news is delivered.
Vonne left a trail of men behind her so the suspects are many–but the clues are few. A broken teacup leads Katie to one of the suspects, but before she can investigate, she’s attacked. Katie may be closing in on a murderer, but time is ticking because the murderer is definitely closing in on her.
Welcome back to Victoria Square, with an intriguing, exciting mystery taking place at Christmas time! Yule Be Dead is absolutely the best in the series so far, with Christmas activities at the Square, an unexpected visitor for Katie, the murder of a young woman, and surprises everywhere. This will surely be the most memorable Christmas Katie has had!
Katie receives a call from her mother-in-law with a very unusual request. Katie’s husband Chad died about two years ago in an accident, and Margo had never liked her daughter-in-law or been in contact with her since. Margo is coming to town for a couple days and asks if she can stay with Katie. Katie agrees, despite the small, one-bedroom apartment she lives in above the pizzeria owned by Andy, her landlord and boyfriend. Katie does not want Margo to know that she and Andy are an item, out of respect for her mother-in-law’s feelings.
Katie visits Francine and Vonne’s shop, Afternoon Tea, after hearing rumors that the quality of baked goods has gone down and they are losing customers. Francine’s daughter Vonne has stopped helping at the shop, and Francine can’t handle everything herself. She offers to sell the shop to Katie, knowing how well she has done at taking over Artisan’s Alley and turning it completely around to a profitable concern for all. Katie had dreamed of serving tea at the B&B she had Chad had planned to buy, but that dream had been laid to rest along with Chad. Very interested, Katie begins to imagine how to remodel the shop, how to handle management of both the tea shop and the Alley, and looking into a bank loan.
While Katie is at the shop, Detective Schuler came in. He brought Francine the terrible news that Vonne was in an accident and died. After various brushes with moving violations, including DUI’s, there is much speculation around Victoria Square, then Katie learns that Vonne had been murdered before being placed in the vehicle that crashed. The rumors about Vonne are flying, including how she made passes at most of the men at the Square and was obvious about searching for a husband.
Katie is juggling more eggs than usual, with a shoplifter, tiny ballerinas wreaking havoc among vendors and buyers, several vendor challenges, paperwork, Margo’s visit, and getting ready for Christmas. Her considerations about the tea shop added enough to the mixture that I’m surprised she doesn’t end up with scrambled eggs everywhere! She has not been asking many questions about Vonne’s murder, but when a bartender not only is serving underage teens but made a terrible reference to Vonne’s death, she has no choice but to talk with Ray, a former detective in McKinlay Mill. A short time later, Katie took a middle of the night walk around the Square when she couldn’t sleep, and the bartender, being chased by the police, aimed his car at Katie, sped up, and hit her.
I wish there were more places like Victoria Square, where most of the vendors and shopkeepers are friendly and help each other when needed! I appreciated the shortlist of the regulars at the beginning of the novel, a great help. I like Katie and Rose best, and even Margo in this fabulous novel. I don’t recall meeting Margo before but heard about her, and was stunned with her visit, her behavior changes, and a remarkable offer she makes Katie. While Andy’s assistant manager is making a pass at him, Margo points out another man who is in love with Katie. Characters overall are illustrated beautifully, allowing the reader to interpret each one.
Yule be Dead is a fabulous mystery not only for Christmas, but throughout the year, including in the heat of summer when the thought of snow is so refreshing. I enjoyed the Dickensian festival and costumes, decorations and Christmas tree lighting ceremony, emphasizing the sense of community in the Square. The many activities and challenges demonstrate how demanding Katie’s job is and how much Artisan’s Alley has become an integral part of the community. The plot twists bring thought-provoking changes to the landscape of the mystery, making it an outstanding, riveting read. I struggled to figure out who Vonne’s killer was, even stopping at the beginning of several chapters trying to figure it out. There were simply too many possibilities, and I couldn’t settle on just one. The ending brings several surprises for Katie, Margo, and the resolution to the mystery. Overall, I was very pleased with the outcomes, and sad to see the last page! I highly recommend this captivating cozy mystery; it can be read as a standalone or within the series.
*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*