‘TWAS THE KNIFE BEFORE CHRISTMAS
SERIES: A Christmas Tree Farm Mystery #2
GENRES/ SUBJECTS: Cosy Mystery
Previous review for this series: Twelve Slays of Christmas
It’s out of the cupcake tin, into the fire for Holly White’s best friend, Caroline. Can Holly clear Caroline’s name in time to go caroling?
When a body turns up in the dumpster behind Caroline’s Cupcakes, Holly White is horrified to learn her best friend Caroline is the main suspect. Everyone in town, including Mistletoe, Maine’s sheriff, saw Caroline fighting with the victim on the night of his death. Worse, Caroline’s fingerprints are all over the murder weapon, a custom-designed marble rolling pin.
Now, just ten days before Christmas, Holly’s up to her jingle bells in holiday shenanigans and in desperate need of a miracle. Juggling extra shifts at her family’s Christmas tree farm and making enough gingerbread jewelry to satisfy the crowd is already more than she can handle—and now she has to find time to clear her best friend of murder. Add in her budding relationship with the sheriff, and run-ins with an ex-fiancé looking to make amends, and Holly’s ready to fly south until springtime.
But her Sherpa-lined mittens come off when Caroline is taken into custody. Can Holly wrap up the case in time for Christmas…even after she gains the true killer’s attention?
Okay, so as you might have seen in my review for the first book in this series, Twelve Slays of Christmas, I picked up this book straight after reading the first one. And honestly, I thought it was just as good.
I was interested to see how the author would tackle the fact that this series is always set during Christmas. I wasn’t sure whether or not the story would pick up a few days after the first one, or whether they would just be sort of in a TV-sitcom-style eternal Christmas. But, instead, Frost has jumped ahead and we are now back in Mistletoe with Holly and her family a year on and things have been developing while we’ve been away: Holly has firmly established herself as an independent jewellery maker, Caroline is running her own cupcake company and Holly’s dad has brought in an entire team to renovate the Christmas Tree Farm and build an inn for Holly to run.
Much to my disappointment, but wonderfully for plot purposes, it seems that over the course of the year Holly’s relationship with Sheriff Grey has somewhat fizzled out and there’s a tension came between them. I thought this was pretty clever as it gave a new stumbling block for Holly both in terms of her personal life, and in wanting to stick her nose into the investigation. Without giving away whether it’s in a positive or negative way, Frost is very clever in that she doesn’t beleaguer the point or a drag things out too much, but she does still develop their relationship and characters throughout the novel, moving things along by the end of the story. I loved getting to see all the characters again. As well as Holly, her parents, and Cookie we also get to see a lot more of some of the minor characters from the last book such as Caroline and Ray, who have become real friends rather than the slightly awkward acquaintances they were in the first book. There’s also a couple of new characters who I hope will stick around.
The mystery in this one I didn’t feel was quite as engaging as the first book. There’s probably actually more investigation, and may actually be a more complex mystery, but I just didn’t feel the same connection to it or the same interest that I did in the first one. That being said, this is still a high 4-star read for me: it’s pacy, engaging, with a whole cast of really well-rounded and believable characters and I absolutely love the Mistletoe setting.
This is the perfect book for a lightweight Christmas mystery. I’m really enjoying this series, and if there was a third book out now I would probably pick it up straight away. I could potentially see myself rereading these books next year if a new novel is released. And I’ll be interested to see how Frost will change things up and keep it interesting within the Christmas theme as the series progresses.