Who Stashed Santa in the Chimney?
It’s a good thing I love Christmas. With so many Christmas themed cozies coming out these days, I have to start reading them earlier to get them all in. I’m starting my Christmas reading season off this year with Death at Holly Lodge by Louise R. Innes. This is the third Daisy Torne Mystery, and it is fun to revisit the characters.
Daisy owns a hair salon in a small English village. It’s a hot spot for gossip, which means it can be the perfect place to pick up clues to a murder.
As this book opens, Daisy is meeting her best friend, Floria, and Floria’s half-sister, Mimi, at Holly Lodge. The home and property have been abandoned for years, but Mimi and her husband have just bought it, planning to fix it up and use it as a second home. In fact, while the women are touring the property, workmen are beginning the renovations the property desperately needs.
The workmen have just discovered that someone boarded up the chimney. When they remove the final board, the get a very unpleasant surprise – the body of a man dressed up like Santa drops out. The victim had been in the chimney awhile, but Daisy can’t remember hearing of any missing men. Who was the victim? And how did he come to be hidden in the chimney?
That set up is perfect for a Christmas mystery, right? I just loved it. As the story unfolds, Christmas plays an important part in everything that was happening, both when the man died and in the present. Even so, it took a little bit before I was feeling the Christmas spirit come through the page, but by the end, it was definitely there. And maybe if I’d read it at Christmas instead of in the middle of Southern California September heat, I would have felt the Christmas spirit much sooner.
The plot is great. Yes, there are answers to the questions I raised in my teaser as well as others we get along the way. The pacing is solid, with plenty of clues, answers, and red herrings to keep us guessing and engaged.
Daisy has completed some training in criminology, so is now able to work with the police as a consultant. That makes her involvement a bit more logical than in many cozies, although DCI Paul McGuinness continues to be reluctant to include her. He’s less reluctant here than he has been in the past, and I am enjoying watching their relationship continue to grow.
Over the past couple of books, we’ve gotten to know some friends in Daisy’s life, including the employees at her salon. They are all back and as charming as ever. The suspects were strong enough to keep us guessing, although they weren’t quite as strong as the returning characters.
With the first couple of books, I’d noticed that the timeline seemed wonky. That was the case here again, mostly when referring to the past and how long ago certain events were. Additionally, we got to repeat a day late in the book. Those kinds of things do bug me, but they only damped my enjoyment a little bit here.
Overall, Death at Holly Lodge is a fun mystery that will help get you in the Christmas spirit. Turn on the lights on your Christmas tree, snuggle in, and enjoy.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.