A Berry Basket Mystery, Book #5
By Sharon Farrow
Author Website: sharonfarrowauthor(.)com
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Jeanie
A cold wind is blowing off Lake Michigan, and murder is scaring the dickens out of everyone . . .
Considering her name, Marlee Jacob is an obvious choice for the role of Jacob Marley in Oriole Point’s production of A Christmas Carol. It’s just sad that the role has opened up because of the death of the elderly actor who’d originally been cast.
But Marlee, the proprietor of The Berry Basket, will do her best to keep spirits high–that is, until clues start mounting that there’s danger behind the scenes. There are accidents on set, the tree in the village square topples over, and worst of all, a body is found with a sprig of holly draped over it. If Marlee can’t wrap up the case, she may not have a berry merry Christmas. (Goodreads)
What do Santa Claus, a giant chipmunk, and Jacob Marley’s ghost have in common? You might have to visit Oriole Pointe, Michigan and find out! Hollyberry Homicide is the latest in the very entertaining Berry Basket Mystery series, and I really enjoyed it. From the setting at Lake Michigan, to the characters who could step off the pages and the challenging mystery, it is an exciting read for those who enjoy Christmas cozy mysteries.
Marlee Jacob left the bright lights of New York City to open her shop, The Berry Basket, that deals in most things related to western Michigan berries. Her parents now live in Chicago and plan to be there on Christmas Eve, as will the parents of her boyfriend, Atticus “Kit” Holt, a detective for the sheriff’s department. While Marlee’s mom’s favorite author is Charles Dickens, Kit’s mom’s favorite fiction character is Atticus Finch.
Marlee loves the holidays and decorates to excess. Christmas is only a week away. Marlee was at the local historical museum when her friend and employee Gillian finds her. Gillian is in a panic, as the man playing Jacob Marley’s ghost in the local amateur theater production is dead. Everett Hostetter, who just turned 95, was hunched over on a bench in a hallway. Marlee confirmed the man was dead, and very recently as his body was still warm. She noticed a cookie falling from his clothing, a bag of cookies under the bench, and cookie crumbs on his face as they await emergency personnel. Diane Cleverly, a retired professor who is now the head curator of the museum, approached them, and is very upset at his passing. They had known each other most of her adult life, and he was primary donor to the historical museum, local theater group, and other local charities.
Anthony, the nephew who lived with Everett, came to pick him up and was shocked that his uncle had just passed away. Everett had seemed the same as always when he dropped him off for the toy train collection display he had looked forward to seeing.
The next day, Suzanne, mother of Marlee’s employees Dean and Andrew, had an emergency meeting of the Green Willow Players. Not only did Everett, who always played Jacob Marley pass away, but the woman playing the Ghost of Christmas Past had emergency surgery the night before. Gillian is convinced there is a curse on the old Calico Barn, where the plays are produced. When Andrew told Marlee that Suzanne wants her to play Jacob Marley – even though she’s not a man – Gillian doesn’t want her to because of the curse. She finally gives up and gives in, hoping she can learn the lines quickly.
Marlee asks Gareth, a man who handcarves duck decoys, to play Santa Claus at her shop. She learned that Gareth was a retired attorney who had taken care of Everett’s business for many years. She learned interesting things about Everett’s family, such as who might have an interest in inheriting the millions he left behind. There are three potential heirs who are financially needy – or greedy – enough to have finished him off. Marlee finds pieces of the broken cookie he was eating when he died and took it to the police to test.
None of the possible heirs wants a funeral or memorial service for Everett. He had given Diane Cleverly her first job after getting her PhD, and she learned a great deal from him over the years. She finally planned and held a memorial service at the museum. Marlee learns that nobody knows where Everett’s will is other than Gareth, who is playing games about filing it with the court. Marlee has an idea where it might be but will put herself in serious jeopardy if anyone finds out she is looking.
The characters are a wonderful mix of well-defined personalities. I really enjoy Marlee and her dedication to her business and Oriole Point. I do like how she finally learned her lines! Theo, her baker, is one of the best friends and employees one could have! One of the things I enjoyed reading about Theo and Marlee is how they are bird watchers, as it further rounds them out as people.
There are several plot twists and turns that add to the intrigue and keep the pages turning. I’m not sure how I absolutely missed the real bad guy other than that I was enjoying the novel as a whole too much. I do admit to being stumped, and quite surprised to see who the killer was. The end was satisfactory, with all loose ends tied up. I highly recommend this, especially for those who enjoy reading about A Christmas Carol and Christmas festivities.