Author: Shelley Freydont
Series: A Celebration Bay Mystery
Publication Information: New York: Berkeley Prime Crime, 2013
Library of Congress Classification: PS3556.R45
Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Montgomery, Liv (Fictitious character)—Fiction
Celebration Bay (N.Y. : Fictitious place)—Fiction
Special events industry—Fiction.
I read this one after Kate Kingsbury’s The Clue is in the Pudding and was afraid that I wouldn’t like it as much. I was wrong.
Celebration Bay, the town where Liv Montgomery moves to after leaving Manhattan and her events planner job there, is somewhere in New York State. I assume that it’s on a body of water, perhaps the Hudson, but the water doesn’t play any role in this mystery, and this is the second book in the series.
Liv is relatively new to Celebration Bay. She was hired to be the events coordinator for the town when it was decided that such a person was necessary to make sure the town’s festivities ran well. Celebrations are big money to the town. This one takes place during the Christmas season and after Liv had cracked her first case in Celebration Bay months before.
There’s a warm, homey feeling to the place, which is something that I love. Liv has a Westie named Whiskey, who loves singing with her assistant, Ted, a local who also sings in the choir and tells her to bring the Westie to the carol sing. (Liv knows better.) Whiskey is very well liked by just about everyone in the town. When Liv does her morning routine of visiting the local coffee shop and bakery, there’s always something for Whiskey, who is accompanying her. Her landladies, Ida and Edna Zimmerman, also spoil the dog, and are happy to take him in for a time as Liv gets tied up with work or, on some occasions, snooping.
Problems begin when Newland Gifts is taken over and becomes Trim a Tree. The Newland family patriarch is dying and, needing money, the business is turned over to a cousin, Clarence Thornsby and his wife, Grace. To the surprise of everyone, the Thornsbys turn the old store into Trim a Tree and push out the Newlands; only young Penny is kept on as a salaried employee to help run it. Trim a Tree then hires Phil Cosgrove as their own part-time Santa Claus; the store sells the most garish, most outlandish decorations, which endears the Thornsbys to no one.
In a place like Celebration Bay, this is a no-no. There is only ONE Santa in the town, and that’s Hank Ousterhout, who owns the garage. He’s done it for years and done it well. Christmas is traditional, not new wave or hip. The light-up night of the town tree is the beginning of the official holiday season, and all the stores are expected to turn on their lights after the tree is lit, which announces the arrival of Santa. Poor Liv is stuck trying to undo what she was not responsible for: get Grace Thornsby, who is running Trim a Tree, to abide by the town rules and get rid of the extra Santa. When Phil turns up dead the night of the tree-lighting, the secrets start to come out. The local sheriff, Bill Gunnison, has sciatica, as well as new deputies who, in one overzealous move, arrest one of the town’s old-timers on suspicion of murder–which turns out to be a big mistake.
Of course there’s romance. Nancy Pyne, a (relative) newcomer, owns Pine Bough and likes Hank. Typically, Hank is clueless. Penny had little Bobby out of wedlock but is going to marry Jason; no one, however, is really sure if Jason is the father. Liv has hired A.K. Pierce, an ex-Marine and head of his own security firm, to help the sheriff. She cannot understand Chaz Bristow, the local newspaper editor who once had a career as an investigative journalist in Los Angeles; after several years there, Bristow abruptly quit, came home and took over the paper that he inherited. He spends his time there and fishing, much to Liv’s frustration. He has no real interest in helping to solve the murder, except to turn up and drive Liv crazy.
A fun book with a real feel for of a small town filled with interesting characters.