Shrouds of Holly Paperback – Nov 6 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
In Kingsbury's charming third holiday-themed Pennyfoot Hotel mystery (after 2006's Slay Bells), hotel proprietor Cecily Sinclair Baxter is supervising the final details of the decorations in the ballroom while her husband and the stable master head into the woods to gather holly. All too quickly, the horse-and-carriage return driverless, bearing only the corpse of a stranger. Frantic and dissatisfied with the Badger's End constabulary, Cecily takes it upon herself to find the missing men and identify a murderer. The Edwardian England setting is emphasized by the romances and adventures of numerous stereotypical characters, from Colonel Fortescue with his brandy-soaked tales of exploits in the Boer War to the downstairs crew of stout housekeeper, high-strung French cook and several gossipy maids. Bright, engaging Cecily doggedly seeks the truth in this fast-paced cozy that will provide warm holiday entertainment for Kingsbury's many fans. (Nov.)
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About the Author
Kate Kingsbury is a full-time writer and the author of the Pennyfoot Hotel mystery series.
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It's Christmas and Cecily and her employees are decorating the Pennyfoot ballroom for a festive Christmas reception. With a staff shortage (primarily due to illness) Baxter, Cecily's husband, has reluctantly accompanied Samuel, the stable manager, to collect fresh boughs of holly to complete the decorations.
While Mrs. Chubb, the Pennyfoot housekeeper, was out collecting eggs, the sleigh returned with a dead body (Gavin Hargrove) but minus Baxter and Samuel.
Samuel turns up with a head injury and his only memory is of bending over Baxter's body. Is Baxter badly injured or is he dead? The only thing known for sure is that he has disappeared.
With Baxter missing, the stable manager injured and a dead body outside her establishment, Cecily is determined to investigate. It's important to find the murderer but it's more important to find her husband.
The deceased Gavin Hargrove seems to have had some enemies. He owed money to a London syndicate for gambling debts. His fiancée doesn't seem very upset over his death. What's that about? And his brother is dependent on Gavin's goodwill. With Gavin dead, he inherits his father's wealth.
It's going to be a difficult task to find the murderer since the police think they know who killed Gavin but Cecily is not giving up. Her husband's life may depend on it.
Kingsbury's historical Christmas novels are set in England and are delightful cozy mysteries. I love the laid back feel of the books. They are satisfying plots that keep you turning the page.
FYI: Kate Kingsbury is Doreen Robert's pen name.
Armchair Interviews says: For a good Christmas murder, Shrouds of Holly is a winner.
I always get caught up in her writing and the characters are so familiar and entertaining. If you love the English countryside with some mystery thrown in and entertaining and lovable characters - you'll love this charming Christmas read.
However one of the horses returns too quickly without either man. Instead inside the trap to contain the holly is a dead stranger; Mr. Baxter and Samuel failed to come home. Cecily sends for Constable Northcott. However, when he makes no progress on the case, a frustrated, worried and determined Cecily begins her own inquiry into what happened to her spouse and stable master, and who killed the man in the trap.
SHROUDS OF HOLLY is a delightful Edwardian whodunit starring an intrepid heroine who turns investigator out of fear for her husband as she believes the constable fails to understand time is running out. Fans of the series will enjoy this fun to read historical holiday cozy as the latest Pennyfoot Hotel mystery (see SLAY BELLS and NO CLUE AT THE INN) cleverly uses stereotypes of Pre WWI English to round out the entertaining amateur sleuth mystery.