"The stage is set for a perfect locked room mystery at Swanmere Manor, a country inn. As a boy, Scotsman Reginald 'Rex' Graves, QC, spent time at the manor, owned then and now by his mother’s friend Dahlia Smithings, a widow who recently lost her only son to the Iraq war.
It’s a mixed bag of characters spending their Christmas holidays at Swanmere: an elderly gent, a hard-driving New York literary agent, two unattached ladies, a gay couple and a pair of honeymooners. As blizzard-like snow starts dropping, guests start dropping, too. And it’s up to Rex Graves to sort through the clues; with roads closed, authorities are unable to get to the manor, and he’s the likeliest candidate for the sleuthing job.
Like many readers of traditional English mysteries, the first author I read A to Z was Agatha Christie. Her books appealed to me because of their straightforward writing, a well-scripted plot, characters developed enough but without too much backstory and a focus on the solution of a crime or crimes. Authors are sometimes compared to Dame Agatha but, in my opinion, few of their books have those characteristics and – more important -- the overall feel of hers. CHRISTMAS IS MURDER does. Not that it’s a period piece – the story is very up-to-date, with cell phones and other accoutrements of modern day living much in evidence.
CHRISTMAS IS MURDER has another thing I much appreciate in a mystery: a front-of-the-book cast list that gives a bit of info about each main character. If a book doesn’t contain one, I create my own to keep the characters straight. With CHRISTMAS IS MURDER, I was able to devote my time to enjoying the story. And I did."
Diana at Cozy Library. First published in Mystery News, October-November 2008 edition