Dying in a Winter Wonderland
A Year-Round Christmas Mystery #5
By Vicki Delany
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
In the town of Rudolph, New York, the Christmas season should make spirits bright, but as the year comes to an end, so does a life, in the fifth installment of this charming cozy mystery series.
Christmas has arrived in Rudolph, New York, and Merry Wilkinson is looking forward to a much needed rest. But before that can happen, Luanne Ireland walks through her door. Luanne had asked Merry to help make decorations for her wedding, but has suddenly moved the wedding months earlier and is now demanding that everyone follow her lead, regardless of the cost.
But that cost is much higher than anyone anticipated. When Luanne’s fiancé is found murdered at their proposed wedding venue, Merry resolves to restore peace and calm to the community of Rudolph. But the closer she gets to the killer, the more personal the case becomes, and Merry begins to worry that a death knell could ring in the New Year.
Rudolph, New York is for those who love Christmas year-round, especially at Christmas time! Merry’s family celebrates in every way imaginable, including their names. Her father, Noel, whose birthday is Christmas Day, plays Santa Claus for the town. Her sisters’ names are Eve and Carole, her brother’s name is Chris. Only her mother, Aline, doesn’t have a Christmas-themed name. This can be read as a standalone since the author has included just the right amount of background, but you might want to go back and read the rest after this one!
Merry is doing the design of the venue where Luanne, a former classmate of Chris’s, will have her wedding in July. Luanne came into Merry’s shop, Mrs. Claus’s Treasures, on Christmas Eve, urgently needing Merry to come to her home that evening. Her fiancé, Jeff, and his parents are visiting for Christmas. Luanne thinks they will accept her news better from Merry than from her. She was offered the ballroom at the Yuletide Inn that she originally wanted for her July wedding, but there are a couple little glitches. First, they will wed on Valentine’s Day, just a few weeks away, and second, the cost will be much more, as they will be able to seat many more guests.
Despite having a rare dinner out with boyfriend Alan, a woodworker by trade who is Santa’s toymaker before Christmas every year, Merry agreed to a brief visit at the Ireland home. Jeff wasn’t too concerned about the date change, but Luann’es parents were definitely worried about the cost and the short time left to do everything.
On Christmas, we have a delightful window in the home of Merry’s parents, where family and friends celebrated Christmas and Noel’s birthday. Luanne showed up at their home drunk, wanting to talk with Chris. She and Chris had dated briefly in high school, and she now thinks she is making a huge mistake marrying Jeff as she only ever loved Chris. Chris couldn’t get away from her fast enough! When her father and fiancé came to take her Luanne home, Jeff punched Chris in the face, issuing a threat should he go near Luanne again.
The next day, Merry went to meet Luanne and her mother at the Yuletide Inn to determine a new menu with the chef. She planned to tell Luanne she would no longer help with the wedding, after what happened the night before. While Merry was looking at the gardens outside the Inn, she heard someone call for help. It was Chris. He had gone to the Inn to talk with Luanne regarding marrying someone with a bit of a violent streak, but he didn’t get to talk with her. Instead, Chris found Jeff’s body on a garden path, and it looks as if Jeff had been murdered.
Detective Diane Simmonds and Officer Candice Campbell arrived quickly, especially since Merry was there and she has been involved in solving past murders in town. She and Chris are questioned. Luanne says in front of the detective that she forgives Chris for any involvement with Jeff’s death, after all, they got into another fight over her, right? Chris become the primary person of interest. And Merry has no choice but to make sure her brother stays off the hook.
I enjoyed the characters and felt as if I got to know Merry and her friends better. The story of how Merry and her best friend Vicky met in kindergarten is great! Luanne is such a master manipulator that it’s hard to imagine anyone falling for her antics. The author does a great job demonstrating each character’s unique traits. I enjoyed Mattie, Merry’s Saint Bernard, also.
Rudolph sounds like a wonderful town to live in or visit! I love how well the town is decorated and that many of the shops are Christmas themed. It is easy to imagine how elegant the Yuletide Inn is and the beauty of the gardens, even when snow-covered.
The plot is intriguing with enough twists and turns to keep my attention. It captured my attention at the beginning and kept it throughout. It was hard to figure out who the bad guy really was! I only guessed a brief time before Merry did. The ending was perfect, with all loose ends tied up. I highly recommend this; it can be enjoyed any time of the year!