by Joanne Fluke,
Kensington Books, 2010
This book is a Christmas anthology, and also includes the stories The Dangers of Gingerbread Cookies by Laura Levine, and Gingerbread Cookies and Gunshots by Leslie Meier.
Story one: I was somewhat disappointed that this was not a full-length Fluke novel as the murder had to unfold and resolve so quickly. In this story, Ernie Kusak is the neighbour who gets on everyone's nerves with his loud music and noxious Christmas lights during the holiday season. It's not much of a surprise that he turns up dead near a platter of Hannah's gingerbread cookies. But who killed the multi-million dollar lottery winner? - His ex-wife, Lorna? Another neighbour who'd had run-ins with Ernie? And does the framed lottery ticket in Ernie's bathroom have any link to the crime? I enjoyed the story, but the wrap-up happened too quickly for my liking.
Story two: When Jaine Austen visits her parents at Tampa Vistas for the holidays, she's in for more of the usual: her parents' bickering, showing her off to the neighbours, and overindulging her cat. What she doesn't expect is the death of resident eligible bachelor, retired plastic surgeon, Dr. Preston McCay. Who done it? - One of the several ladies he's strung along? His much younger fiancee? The community handyman? Doc Wilkins? All of them have a reason, and it's up to Jaine to sort out the suspects. I enjoyed this story enough to put Levine's Jaine debut on my reading list, though I did find the addressing of the reader throughout somewhat distracting.
Story three: Lucy Stone is many things - wife, mother, grandmother, and part-time reporter. When local boy Nemo Anderson disappears, it hits Lucy and the community hard. Lucy had met the boy and his mother, Ocean, and knows something of the unconventional life they must lead with Ocean's partner, Rick. As the police conduct their own investigation, Lucy conducts a search for answers, praying all the while for the boy's safe return. Was there really a large black woman in a puffy burgundy coat, who drove Nemo away in a white SUV, or were the lad's mother and guardian in some way responsible for his vanishing? This was my favourite story in the anthology. Not only did Meier include recipes (as did Fluke), but the plot unfolded at an appropriate pace and came to a satisfying conclusion.