Thursday, September 7, 2017

Book Review: A Christmas Peril by J. A. Hennrikus (Theater Cop #1)



Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Sully, strong mystery, theater sub-plot
Cons: Foul language could be cut down
The Bottom Line:
A Christmas murder
Sully juggles with a play
Festive, fun debut




New Series Debut Delights

As much as I love movies and TV, I also love live theater.  So when Julie Hennrikus said she was working on a series with a theater theme, I immediately perked up.  After all, I’ve enjoyed the Clock Shop books she’s written as Julianne Holmes.  An author I like with a theme I’m interested in?  You don’t have to sell me further.  I’ve been marking time until A Christmas Peril would debut, and I loved the result.

Edwina “Sully” Sullivan has taken a medical retirement from her job as a Boston cop.  After moving back to her hometown, she found herself becoming the general manager for the local theater company.  It’s mostly a summer theater company, but each December they put on a production of A Christmas Carol.  This year’s production is looking problematic thanks to a star who can’t remember his lines and a cast getting frustrated with his antics.  Time is running out since the play is supposed to open this weekend.

However, the big news in town is taking place outside of the theater.  Peter Whitehall was murdered – shot in his home.  Peter is a distant relative of Sully and the father of her friend Eric, but the reason the entire town is talking is how rich he was.  Peter was definitely the most prominent citizen in the small Massachusetts town.  Because of Peter’s security system, the police know it was someone who was in the house at the time, but that just leaves family.  Reluctantly, Sully finds herself being pulled into the puzzle.  Can she figure out who committed the murder while still doing her part to get the play ready for opening night?

I was a bit surprised when I realized that the murder was not directly connected to the theater.  Oh, there are some connections, but it’s really the friend and family ties that bring Sully into the case.  This wasn’t an issue for very long, however, as I got caught up in the story.  Really, the mystery is a modern-day Agatha Christie type puzzle.  Instead of weather isolating the suspects, its technology that does it.  There are some twists that kept me guessing until we reached the logical solution.

And fans of the theater, like me, have no reason to fear.  The problems the production of A Christmas Carol is facing provide a strong sub-plot that is woven through the book.  I loved how the two were balanced and the glimpse behind the scenes at the theater.  It certainly helps that I love the story and know it well, I watch or listen to several different productions of the classic Christmas tale every year.

Sully is already a strong main character with strengths and flaws that make her relatable.  There are some other strong characters here, a few of whom I’m hoping are going to be series regulars instead of just suspects for this book.  Some of the theater characters could have been stronger, but they work for this book, and I’m sure we’ll get to know them better as the series goes along.

My biggest issue with the book was the foul language.  It mostly falls into the mild category, but it was definitely more excessive than I’m used to in a cozy.  It’s worth noting, but I’m sure for most people it’s worth noting only in passing.

It’s hard to believe that Christmas cozies are already coming out, but that’s indeed the case.  Whether you devour it now or wait to savor it in December, you’ll definitely want to meet Sully in A Christmas Peril.  This new series is off to a strong start.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

I'm reviewing this book as part of a blog tour.  Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour.

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4 comments:

  1. Beautiful Christmas-themed cover! Clearly, "A Christmas Carol" should be left to the experts!

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  2. Mark, I enjoyed your review very much & am looking forward to reading this new series.

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  3. Enjoyed the description and review of the book. Great cover and I like the theater storyline. Can't wait to read.

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  4. Love the cover and the plot. While the murder doesn't have that much to do with theater I'm curious about the Christmas Carol subplot. This sounds like one I'd enjoy.

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