Deck the Donuts
Deputy Donut Mystery, Book #6
By Ginger Bolton
Author Website: gingerbolton(.)com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
‘Tis the season for the delectable desserts Emily Westhill and her cuddly cat serve up at Deputy Donut –but someone naughty on Santa’s list has come to town…
It’s Christmastime again in Fallingbrook, Wisconsin. Emily has truly decked the halls of her donut shop and decorated her donuts with festive designs from green and red frosting to snowflake sprinkles. For the annual Ice and Lights Festival, she’s commissioned a sculpture with three ice-carved donut shapes to form a holey snowman, Frosty the Donut. She has one Christmas wish this year–to spend some time under the mistletoe with a certain detective.
But the holidays just aren’t the same without an unexpected disaster or two. A tour bus on its way to the festival has crashed and a snowstorm has left all the shaken passengers stranded and shivering. Emily and her friends open their homes to shelter the traveling families, while the bus driver is admitted to the hospital for his injuries. But the following morning, Emily discovers his body–buried beneath Frosty the Donut.
The bus passengers show little sympathy for the man who dashed through the snow so badly, some claiming he was under the influence while behind the wheel. Emily also discovers that the driver had a history with folks in Fallingbrook. With multiple motives for murder piling up, it will take a Christmas miracle for Emily to solve this crime. (Goodreads)
I enjoyed this latest offering in this Deputy Donut mystery series. The characters are three dimensional; I would almost expect to see them in any small Wisconsin town. It is heartwarming to see Tom, the retired police chief and Emily, the young widow of his detective son with a successful donut shop. It was named after Emily and her late husband’s cat, “Dep”, Deputy Donut. I love the town, the close friendships and values, the humor, and how Emily tends to get involved with crimes that happen around the lives of those she loves.
Deputy Donut is almost ready for Christmas, and Emily and Tom have gone all out to bring festive holidays to their customers. Fallingbrook is looking a lot like Christmas with the Ice and Lights Festival, which includes many ice sculptures and twinkling lights. Frosty the Donut, at about 7’, is Emily and Tom’s contribution to the festival.
Emily has spent the day with Brent, a detective and her late husband’s partner and best friend. It has been seven years since Alec was killed on the job, and she and Brent have become close friends. For the first time, she is interested in him as more than a friend. They have been out skiing. They have gotten together frequently in the past four years as friends for various sporty activities. He was getting ready to give her a tour of the home he just purchased until he is called to work. A tour bus landed in a ditch. As a former 911 dispatcher, Emily has kept up her first aid training, and follows Brent to the scene to help.
The bus reeks of alcohol, and Travis, the driver, isn’t looking very good. The tour guide, Paige, is trying to help Travis stay in his seat. All the passengers except the children are still buckled in their seats. Snow is falling, and there are at least a couple people with injuries necessitating an ambulance trip to the hospital. The folks of Fallingbrook have come together to help. Tom’s wife secured meals for them and homes that can take them in until arrangements can be made to get them home. Emily took Paige home and put her in touch with the hospital to find out when Travis, her boyfriend, can be released.
Emily gave Paige directions to the hospital to visit or pick up Travis the next day. Enough snow has fallen that the only safe way to go anywhere is by four-wheel-drive or cross-country skis. During the night, Emily heard Paige leave, and return more than an hour later. Emily set out for work on her skis and took a slight detour to the park to see how Frosty the Donut looks with the lights set up. There is one little problem. Frosty is gone. Where could a 7’ ice sculpture go?
She can see a pile of snow and finally found the base of the sculpture with scrapes and dents on it. More piles of snow are nearby that might be covering the ice donuts if someone were to have lost control of their vehicle and knocked Frosty over. She pushed away enough snow with the broom she had with her. Underneath the giant donuts is a bare, human foot. She called Brent, still at the station, and men from the nearby fire station ran over. It is Travis, the bus driver, barefoot, wearing only a hospital gown, dead.
The author paints each character vividly yet realistically. Emily is my favorite, and getting to know Olivia, their full-time assistant, was delightful. I can picture Jocelyn, home on break from college, always being in motion, a gymnast dropping into cartwheels wherever she happens to be. Suspects seemed to have sinister aspects as noted in furtive – or not so furtive, conversations.
Plot twists either uncover more people who had motive to kill Travis or proves why they couldn’t have done it. The story kept me guessing throughout, and I was only a couple sentences – literally – ahead of Emily in figuring out who the bad guy was and why. There were many incredibly intense moments as they tried to escape the killer; there was no way I could put the book down! The end was very satisfying, and I am already looking forward to the next cozy mystery in the series. I highly recommend it, and the other books in the series.