Publisher: Kensington Genre: Cozy Mystery Release date: September 26, 2017 Pages: 512
I picked up this book excited for a fun, Christmas themed mystery from a well established writer of cozy mysteries. In the past I have enjoyed such offerings from writers such as Mary Higgins Clarke, and I was hoping this would fall into the same category.
Holiday Murder combines two previously published books in the Lucy Stone mystery series, of which there are currently 25 – Mistletoe Murder and Christmas Cookie Murder. The first book, Mistletoe Murder is also the first book in the series and this combination seemed like the perfect way to dip my toe into the series, while finding a fun mystery to add to my seasonal reading list.
I ended up extremely disappointed.
Though there were frequent Christmas references in the books, I did not get a “Christmasy” feeling from the stories. Even when they were wound into the story, the Christmas details all felt contrived, and I was constantly faced with the impression that Christmas was an inconvenience and a bother to Lucy. Even when she was apparently enjoying some tradition or another.
Aside from not being books to put you in the Christmas Spirit, I did not enjoy the mysteries themselves. If I wasn’t reading the books with the intention of reviewing them, I’m not sure I would have continued to the end. I certainly wouldn’t have picked up the second book.
In a technical respect, Mistletoe Murder had a weak mystery, with a resolution that was not well established throughout the story. I found myself not believing that Lucy had actually solved the crime. There weren’t enough hints and clues leading up to the big reveal, and I finished the book feeling cheated. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when an author can surprise me with a good twist, but I have to be able to look back at the story and see the breadcrumbs along the path, carefully left out by the author. Mistletoe Murder had no such path.
Christmas Cookie Murder was better laid out, but the crime and investigation felt secondary to the rest of the story. I just couldn’t believe that Lucy cared enough to thoroughly investigate the murder, even though she seemed to be quite torn up by the death of a woman she barely knew. It became clear at the end how the various threads of the story were linked, but during the course of the book it just felt disjointed.
The biggest problem for me with both books was Lucy Stone herself. I did not like her at all. In fact, I think it is safe to say that I actively disliked her as a character. My dislike for Lucy went beyond a general annoyance with her, which I have felt for many other main characters. There were many times, especially in the first book, where I found myself shuddering at Lucy’s response to events.
One example that displays why I disliked her came in Christmas Cookie. Lucy discovers that her teenage son has eaten the majority of a cake she intended to be her dessert for the cookie exchange party. Instead of being reasonably upset with him, and showing her anger, she essentially throws a tantrum, acts disgusted with him, and then thinks to herself that he will pay for this… I’m sorry? While I understand the anger and frustration in the situation, her response seemed overly hostile and aggressive. Not two pages later she is defending him and his actions to her husband. I tried to like her, I really did, but I found very few redeeming qualities.
Unfortunately, in my quest for fun seasonal books, I will have to give these two a pass.
I give this book 2 stars – 1.5 stars for the first book, and 2.5 stars for the second, which I actually find myself drawn into by the end.
Have you read these books? If so, what did you think? What are your favourite cozy, holiday mysteries?
I received a copy of this book from Kensington Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.