TWELVE SLAYS OF CHRISTMAS
SERIES: A Christmas Tree Farm Mystery #1
GENRES/ SUBJECTS: Cosy Mystery
When Holly White’s fiance cancels their Christmas Eve wedding with less than two weeks to go, Holly heads home with a broken heart. Lucky for her, home in historic Mistletoe, Maine is magical during Christmastime–exactly what the doctor prescribed. Except her plan to drown her troubles in peppermints and snickerdoodles is upended when local grouch and president of the Mistletoe Historical Society Margaret Fenwick is bludgeoned and left in the sleigh display at Reindeer Games, Holly’s family tree farm.
When the murder weapon is revealed as one of the wooden stakes used to identify trees on the farm, Sheriff Evan Grey turns to Holly’s father, Bud, and the Reindeer Games staff. And it doesn’t help that Bud and the reindeer keeper were each seen arguing with Margaret just before her death. But Holly knows her father, and is determined to exonerate him.The jingle bells are ringing, the clock is ticking, and if Holly doesn’t watch out, she’ll end up on Santa’s naughty list in Twelve Slays of Christmas, Jacqueline Frost’s jolly series debut.
I was little bit unsure going into Twelve Slays of Christmas whether or not a mystery series revolving entirely around Christmas and the winter holidays would be able to hold my attention. A Christmas, Halloween or other holiday-themed instalment is often a lot of fun and a nice break from the usual in a long-running series, but I thought that a series revolving entirely around the same holiday every book might become a bit too much.
Still, I was looking for holiday cozies and I didn’t really want to dip into a series mid-run, so I decided to pick this up — and I’m super, super glad I did!
I really loved this book.
Holly has just returned home after an ugly breakup to stay with her mom and dad, who run a Christmas Tree Farm. I didn’t really necessarily think there was that much potential in that premise before I picked up the book, but Frost has been really clever and used the Christmas Tree Farm really just as a jumping point. The entire town, Mistletoe, pretty much revolves around Christmas, so there’s also Christmas-themed shops and events happening. As well as the actual Tree Farm itself, Holly and her parents run the on-site cafe, the Hearth, and they’re doing twelve days of various winter-themed activities at the farm to encourage people to come and visit.
I really loved Holly and the dynamic between her and her parents. They’re really supportive without being too overbearing and I thought that having the smaller guesthouse on-site gave her enough independence to be investigating and living her life, while keeping the parents quite involved in the story. I also really liked the secondary characters, especially Holly’s friend, Cookie, who runs the decorations and knick-knacks store. The whole town felt really well-developed and realistic, especially Holly. And although the town has really gone for the Christmas theme, I didn’t feel like a place that would be too obsessive or miserable to live in. There was just enough Christmas scattered through the book to really get you in the holiday spirit, without it going too far and overdoing it.
I really like the romance that is developing with the town sheriff, Evan Gray. I love the bickering, not quite flirting that he and Holly engage in throughout the novel. I really like that kind of dynamic between the amateur sleuth and the professional investigators in cozies. She doesn’t have to worry about the rules and regulations that he does, but her lack of training shows in the fact that she winds up in danger and he’s always having to warn her off.
I thought Holly’s investigation was really good and she seemed quite sensible about it. She wasn’t running off to tackle suspects or break-and-enter or do anything too extreme: mostly it was phone calls and subtly trying to investigate suspects through town gossip etc. I thought that Frost made a really good case for a why Holly — both personality-wise and the family situation that the murder resulted in — kept investigating even after each disaster rather than going down the more sensible route of giving up. I thought that this helped overcome that cozy mystery problem of the protagonist being “Too Stupid to Live”.
I really enjoyed Twelve Slays of Christmas and as soon as I finished I went back online and picked up the next call one, the new release, ‘Twas the Knife Before Christmas and I’ll have a review of that for you next week.