Jay Roberts

Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas
by Vicki Delany
Crooked Lane Books, September 2023, $30.99

In Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas, author Vicki Delany's 6th Year-Round Christmas mystery series, shop owner Merry Wilkinson finds that in America's "Christmas Town" of Rudolph, New York, it is beginning to look a lot like murder.

Merry's mother, a former opera star, has been talked into joining the cast of a musical version of A Christmas Carol as part of the town's annual Christmas play—and that's where things take a turn for everyone involved when the body of one of the amateur theater actors turns up murdered in Merry's store, Mrs. Claus’s Treasures.

Paula Monahan wasn't exactly the most beloved person in town and the list of suspects is long and quite varied. Between her trouble-making during rehearsals and issues in her personal and professional life, any number of people have good reason to have wanted Paula dead.

Merry vows to stay out the investigation, but when her store clerk Jackie and Merry's mother are among the suspects, she can't help but start asking questions—even after Detective Diane Simmonds makes it clear she doesn't want Merry involved. It isn't long before the clues lead to threats and even an attempted attack on Merry's mother. Even so, Merry is indefatigable in the the face of danger as she tries to figure out who murdered Paula.

The relationships between the regular series characters continue to grow and evolve in this book. I like the cordial but still somewhat distant relationship between Merry and Detective Simmonds. Clearly they are friendly but keep each other at an arm's length—largely due to Merry's unwelcome nosing around. The supporting cast as a whole is great. Merry's parents are so different from each other and yet they perfectly complement one another at the same time. Merry's coworkers and fellow business owners provide their own moments of fun. The clueless way Merry's clerk Jackie goes through life could be off-putting, but here it works. Even an antagonistic business owner named Margie is given a moment to shine. Heck, I even loved all the ego-driven characters that made up the massively dysfunctional theater group.

There's a number of believable twists and turns in the plot of Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas, but what really made this book such a draw was how once the reveal is made, you realize that the killer was staring you in the face the whole time and yet you never realized it. That's what makes this series, one that has become dear to my heart, such a great read with each successive novel. Add to that the fact that I'm not usually one to get carried away by holiday spirit, yet enjoyed my time in Rudolph, and it is a great testament to the strength of Vicki Delany's writing. Simply put, Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas is a wonderful gift for mystery lovers everywhere.