Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mystery Book Review: The Christmas Cookie Killer by Livia J. Washburn

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of The Christmas Cookie Killer by Livia J. Washburn. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

The Christmas Cookie Killer by Livia J. Washburn

The Christmas Cookie Killer by
A Fresh-Baked Mystery with Phyllis Newsom

NAL Books (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-451-22534-1 (0451225341)
ISBN-13: 978-0-451-22534-4 (9780451225344)
Publication Date: September 2008
List Price: $14.00

Review: Retired school teacher and amateur sleuth Phyllis Newsom investigates the murder of a neighbor in The Christmas Cookie Killer, the third mystery in this series by Livia J. Washburn.

It’s just a week before the neighborhood Christmas cookie exchange at Phyllis' home, and the cookie baking contest which follows. All seems well in the quiet community of Weatherford, Texas. That is until Phyllis takes a plate of the cookies to her elderly neighbor, Agnes Simmons, who is housebound because of a broken hip. Phyllis returns minutes later to lend Agnes a set of snow flake cookie cutters so she and her granddaughter could make cookies together, but Agnes is dead. She has been strangled with the sash from her robe. Before Phyllis can dial 911, she is attacked from behind, receiving a blow to the head, and loses consciousness. The police arrest Agnes’ grandson, Randall. He is already wanted by the police for possession of drugs with intent to sell. Phyllis does not believe Randall would kill his own grandmother so decides to do a little investigating on her own. When Phyllis sets out to ask the neighbors if they had seen any unusual cars or strange people on the street recently, she is shocked at their distrustful approach in response to her seemingly innocent questions. This leads her to discovering secrets that some of her neighbors are concealing: spousal abuse, illicit love affair, drunkenness, and other acts Agnes may have witnessed while sitting by her window. Were any of these secrets appalling enough to kill for? At the risk of her own life, Phyllis sets out to make that determination.

The Christmas Cookie Killer is an absorbing mystery and yet a delightfully captivating story. Phyllis and her tenants have a great friendship and camaraderie. The solution to the mystery remains, as it were, a mystery until the very end. And following the story are fantastic recipes of not only cookies but also a complete Christmas dinner. So in the spirit of the season, Merry Christmas to all and to all a good read!

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of The Christmas Cookie Killer and to Penguin Group for providing a copy of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Yuletide is here—and retired teacher cum amateur sleuth Phyllis Newsom looks forward to finishing up this unlucky year. But she won’t be hanging up her apron just yet—because this year’s Christmas bake-off is going to be cutthroat.

Phyllis would like to think she’s entering the Christmas cookie contest for the fun of it—but that’s not exactly true. She can’t imagine anyone beating her snowflake-shaped lime sugar cookies. Then, during her annual Christmas cookie exchange, Phyllis heads over to the elderly Mrs. Simmons’s home and finds her dead, in a pile of lime sugar cookies. But with a number of names on Santa’s naughty list, this case may be a hard cookie to crumble.

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