Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #: 9780738752419
Midnight Ink Publishing
$15.99; $11.99 Amazon
June 8, 2018
In Jewel Bay, all is merry and bright. At Murphy's Mercantile, AKA the Merc, manager Erin Murphy is ringing in the holiday season with food, drink, and a new friend: Merrily Thornton. A local girl gone wrong, Merrily's turned her life around. But her parents have publicly shunned her, and they nurse a bitterness that chills Erin.
When Merrily goes missing and her boss discovers he's been robbed, fingers point to Merrily - until she's found dead, a string of lights around her neck. The clues and danger snowball from there. Can Erin nab the killer - and keep herself in one piece - in time for a special Christmas Eve?
When Erin Murphy is outside the Mercantile stringing Christmas lights, she decides to look at the Thornton's shop window. Every year, they have the most amazing display, and this year is no different...except that their daughter Merrily has arrived in town, and with no welcome from her parents. When she hears the conversation - Merrily's mother Taya is berating her and telling her to leave, Erin takes pity and invites her into the Merc. After commiserating with her and feeling sorry for Merrily, she invites her to the cookie exchange she's having that Sunday.
It seems Merrily spent time in prison for embezzlement when she was only a teenager, and most people think she got taken advantage of by the true embezzler; yet her parents haven't forgiven her, and it doesn't look like they ever will. But when Merrily doesn't show up for the cookie exchange, Erin is concerned until she receives a phone call from Greg Taylor - and it doesn't bode well.
Greg hired Merrily to work for him as a bookkeeper, but when he discovered missing money and she didn't show up for work he went looking for her - and found her, dead - with a string of Christmas lights around her neck. He called Erin because she'd been through this before. But Erin can't figure out what Merrily could have done to get herself killed - she doesn't believe she stole from Greg's hardware store, since there's no real evidence; but there doesn't seem to be any other explanation.
It seems Greg is the main suspect, and his sister Wendy asks Erin to investigate since she thinks the police will arrest him for the crime. So Erin tells her she'll think about it - and that she does, discovering things along the way that don't make any sense. Where is the missing money? Merrily wasn't living high, and Erin discovers evidence that shows she didn't leave her home of her own free will. But finding the truth could take some time - time Erin doesn't have with her wedding day nearing, and she might not make it anyway if someone else has their way...
I enjoyed reading this book, the fifth in the series. This time around, Erin is getting ready for her Christmas wedding to Adam when the tragedy of murder occurs. Although she's not a friend of Merrily, who was years ahead of her in school, she still knows the family and hears the history of why Merrily left. But the woman looked so bereft that Erin knew she had to reach out to her, and when she didn't show for the exchange, Erin was concerned.
What follows is a maze of clues all leading in one direction, but that direction isn't easy to find. You have to sift through them (they are there) before you find the truth. And the truth isn't an easy pill to swallow. It makes one wonder how there are people who can go through this life seemingly caring for others, but in reality are a different type of human being altogether.
In the end, it was a very good mystery and put together well, and I enjoyed reading it. Although it takes place at Christmas, I believe that it can be read any time of the year, and can also be read as a stand alone. Recommended.
More on Leslie Budewitz's Books: https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/leslie-ann-budewitz/