Book Reviews, Mystery

Review: Death by Eggnog by Alex Erickson

Publisher: Kensington                                                 Genre: Cozy Mystery 
Release date: September 26, 2017                                      Pages: 304

After her Christmas plans with her father fall through, Krissy Hancock finds herself staying in town for the holidays. Her business partner has convinced her that they have everything under control and she should take the week off as planned, and Krissy reluctantly agrees. 

While Krissy tries to figure out how she’s going to spend all of her free time, worries about her relationship with her doctor boyfriend, and tries to stop her cat from tearing down the Christmas tree, she somehow gets pulled into filling in as an elf in the local Christmas play.

Soon after joining the play, Krissy is faced with a bigger problem than learning the right steps to all the dances. After the lead Santa is murdered, Krissy finds herself pulled unofficially into the investigation as she tries to prove that her ex-boyfriend did not kill Santa. 

Death by Eggnog was the third Christmas themed cozy mystery I read in less than a week. After the first two fell flat and left me disappointed (see that review here), my expectations were low for this book. I once again found my expectations turned on their head, as I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book.

As the fifth book in a series, but the first one I have read, it was clear from the beginning that Alex Erickson is comfortable and familiar with his characters and with the cozy mystery genre. I admit that, at first, I found myself gently laughing at how the main character was yet another young, single female who co-owned her own business. In this case, as in so many others, a combination coffee shop and bookstore.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy this pattern, and find myself going back time and time again to stories where the protagonist owns her own business. (Probably because, though I am not nearly brave enough to jump in, I secretly wish I owned my own small, but successful beyond all expectation, shop.) But I went into this new series in a pretty cynical mood. And I was worried that this was going to be another cookie cutter series with uninspired characters and formulaic plot.

I’ve said it already, but I will say it again, I was pleasantly surprised by Death by Eggnog. 

What I’d really like to talk about in this review is Death by Eggnog as a Christmas mystery. Within the cozy genre, holiday mysteries should have their own sub-genre to be considered within. Not only do they need to have a good story, and good characters, like the rest of the genre, but they also need to have the correct amount of holiday content and invoke the right feeling in the reader.

When I read a Christmas mystery, I want to be convinced that it is Christmas. I am going to be disappointed if it feels like the Christmas aspects are forced, or are just there to be window dressing (a fairly obvious ploy, in my opinion, to gain easy impulse buy sales). At the same time, there is a fine line between effective and over the top. I don’t want the Christmas elements to be sickly sweet. Too much of a good thing and all that.

Death by Eggnog nailed the Christmas elements. The Christmas references all felt natural, and I had no trouble believing that Krissy really was navigating the Christmas season, with all its snowy goodness. I read this book when summer had yet to dissolve fully into fall… and found myself wishing that it would start to snow so that I could have that Christmas snow feeling in real life. I was literally sitting in shorts dreaming of snow. *slow clap* Well done Erickson. Well done.

There were a couple things that bugged me in the story, but those were mostly because I wanted the story to go my way, and I wanted answers immediately. Which I didn’t get. And now I have to read the next book… go figure. I was pretty confused by the status of Krissy’s relationship with her boyfriend Will Foster. I see that relationship headed for rocky shoals in the near future.

My other frustration also had to do with a romantic interest – this one in the form of an ex (maybe soon to be ex-ex) lover of Krissy’s. Krissy and Paul had some adorable interactions throughout the story (way better than Krissy-Will), and then, in his role as a police officer, he got to swoop in and save the day in the end. It had the potential to be a great scene – and it could have gone any number of ways. But it never happened. Potential romantic interest swoops in to save the main character from a dangerous situation, and you don’t even put the scene in the book? Not fair.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. If you are looking for a fun, cozy, Christmas read, then I would definitely recommend you go pick up this book. And don’t worry if you haven’t read any others in the series. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself headed out to the bookshop or local library to pick up the rest in the series…

I give this book 3.5 stars out of 5.

Do you enjoy reading Christmas/holiday themed novels? Which ones are your favourites? Do you have any that have become a holiday tradition?

I received a copy of this book from Kensington Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

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