I’m a bit late with this delightful Rex Graves Mystery called Christmas is Murder, but I guess it’s never too late for a good murder mystery. The first in a series by C. S. Challinor, I purchased this just before Christmas and was already reading another book, with a second that I couldn’t wait to get into.
This story, set in the Swanmere Manor Hotel in the southwest of England, moved along quickly with interesting characters, lots of murders (each one a different method from the last), and a whole slew of snowbound suspects. I loved the characters in this novel, especially Rex with his Scottish accent and logical, analytical thinking. Also, I liked that he has compassion for small animals; he rescues a puppy abandoned at the train station on a very cold, snowy night, and carries him to Swanmere in his coat pocket, using his tennis rackets as snowshoes, and dragging his suitcase behind him by his belt. (He also improvises very well.)
The newlyweds are good suspects. Rex overhears them arguing although he’s not sure how to interpret it. Charley is a paramedic and so has medical knowledge that makes him a good candidate for the first murder by arsenic. Also, he’s been flirting with Rosie, the maid which has made his wife Yvette extremely jealous. And how did she come by the beautiful brooch belonging to the first victim, Henry Lawdry, a disabled WWII veteran? It’s just possible that Rosie knows she’s to inherit the small hotel; could she be trying to frame the owner, Dahlia Smithings, a good friend of Rex’s mother and a bit bitter after the loss of both her husband and her son? Then there is the odd-job man, Clifford, whose wife mysteriously fell down the well a few years back. Could he have pushed her? And by extension, pushed Miriam, the New York literary agent (disliked by one and all) down the cellar stairs who becomes the second victim? And who tries to destroy the evidence by arson before the roads are clear enough for the police to arrive? Could the attractive Helen (who clearly has fallen for Rex) have smothered her friend Wanda because of an old grudge? And lets not forget cook Bellows who certainly had access to the poisoned almond tart and can’t explain her whereabouts when Miriam was pushed.
In the true Nick Charles style, Rex gathers all the guests and staff of the manor in the drawing room to review the evidence and reveal the murderer. This book was a very quick read, full of humour despite the three murders, with the puppy romping in and out and finally helping to capture the culprit. Lots of fun! * * * *