REST YE MURDERED GENTLEMEN
SERIES: A Year-Round Christmas Mystery , #1
GENRES/ SUBJECTS: Cozy Mystery
In Rudolph, New York, it’s Christmastime all year long. But this December, while the snow-lined streets seem merry and bright, a murder is about to ruin everyone’s holiday cheer…
As the owner of Mrs. Claus’s Treasures, Merry Wilkinson knows how to decorate homes for the holidays. That’s why she thinks her float in the semi-annual Santa Claus parade is a shoe-in for best in show. But when the tractor pulling Merry’s float is sabotaged, she has to face facts: there’s a Scrooge in Christmas Town.
Merry isn’t ready to point fingers, especially with a journalist in town writing a puff piece about Rudolph’s Christmas spirit. But when she stumbles upon the reporter’s body on a late night dog walk—and police suspect he was poisoned by a gingerbread cookie crafted by her best friend, Vicky—Merry will have to put down the jingle bells and figure out who’s really been grinching about town, before Vicky ends up on Santa’s naughty list…
I was a little wary going into this story as I wasn’t sure whether it would be too Christmasy — too overly cutesy and kitsch.
It’s set right before Christmas, in a small, snowy town — Rudolph — trying to get itself the title of Christmastown. Everyone there has dedicated their business to a Christmas theme year round. For example, we have shops selling decorations, a traditional toy maker, a coffee shop and a bakery with Christmas themed names etc. I thought the author did a really good job on this front: there were a lot of Christmas goings-on, but it never felt too overdone. It’s just enough to get you in a winter holiday mood.
I liked the town as a whole — just in its own right, it had a lot of personality — and I thought it contained a lot of interesting characters. Some were a little too much of a caricature (Merry’s snippy competitor, who sells cheaper versions of her products, the intrepid journalist etc.) but there were a few that were interesting: sadly, Merry, the main character, wasn’t really one of them… Overall, the town is definitely the star of the show, and there is lots of potential here for future books in the series.
The mystery was a little hit-and-miss, the main thing being that the focus just felt off. For most of the book that Merry is investigating who is trying to sabotage the towns reputation — which is perfectly valid — but having come on the heels of a murder, it felt a little bit underwhelming. I mean I get it. The shop owners whose livelihoods are at stake probably do care more about their reputation than a dead stranger, but for Merry as the sleuth, I felt she glossed over Nigel’s death very quickly and moved onto just looking for the culprits of the sabotage. The guilty party did take me by surprise, it wasn’t anyone I had suspected. There were a few obviously red herrings — so obvious that you know it’s not going to be them — and some I thought might be a double bluff, so right up to the reveal I wasn’t entirely sure who it was going to be. On the other hand, I’m not entirely sure that the killers motivation made sense. It seemed overly convoluted and to achieve what they were trying to achieve, there seems a much easier way of going about it.
The biggest problems that I can pinpoint as to why I didn’t love Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen were more to do with personal opinions than with anything related to plot or character. The author raised my hackles a couple of times and set my teeth on edge. The first was that Vicky — Merry’s best friend — gripes and complains and guilt trips Merry over what she orders when they go for breakfast. Merry orders a one-off treat fried breakfast and Vicky goes into a long ramble about how disgusting it is, and how unhealthy it is. Despite the fact that the breakfast doesn’t sound all that unhealthy, and Vicky herself runs a bakery peddling sugar and butter laden goods. This just seems too hypocritical and food-shaming — especially in a Christmas story when, let’s face it, most people tend to overeat. It just didn’t feel right. Secondly, there’s a couple of stray lines where Merry’s family discuss their opinions on gift giving. Despite the fact Merry sells Christmas decorations and gifts to all ages, she and her father decide to make it very clear that anyone over the age of 18 doesn’t does not deserve, and should not be getting, Christmas gifts. I thought this was the author’s own opinions coming through and it came off as incredibly preachy. Again not something that really worked in a book set at this time of year.
Overall though, this was a strong series opener which I tend to be a little more forgiving of. I might pick up the second book in the series if I come across it, but I don’t think I’d make a massive effort to hunt it down. Maybe for next Christmas?