Sunday, December 20, 2015


Publisher:    NAL
Published:   November 3, 2015
ISBN:       978-0451416711
Genre:     Cozy Mystery
Format:    Print 
Obtained via:  Publisher
Reviewed by name and email address:  Gina



Retired school teacher Phyllis Newsome is more than ready to put her detecting days behind her—and one of these days she will.  Really, she will.  In fact, this Christmas holiday is the perfect time to do that. Phyllis never planned to get involved in solving crime—she kinda just fell into it over the past few years.  In the days leading up to Thanksgiving she and housemate Sam Fletcher head into downtown Weatherford for the holiday parade.  There they run into an old friend of Sam’s, Barney McCrory, who is driving the wagon carrying Santa.  Just as the parade begins though, Barney falls over in the wagon and the horses—spooked by some unknown reason, take off running.  After Sam manages to pull a move worthy of John Wayne he and Phyllis discovery Barney is dead.  At first they believe Barney has had a heart attack but it doesn’t take long for word to reach Sam and Phyllis—Barney was shot and killed. 

Phyllis remains determined not to get involved, but when Barney’s son-in-law is arrested for the crime she’s unable to help herself.  The question is, can she help him?

I’m a long time Livia J. Washburn fan and her latest, the CANDY CANE CUPCAKE KILLER is one of, if not the, best of her Fresh Baked series.  After my disappointment of her DEADLY TRICK OR TREAT I wasn’t so sure where this one would go.  This is one is Washburn at her best.  The relationships between Phyllis and her housemates are solid and I like how Washburn is moving things along with Phyllis and Sam.  She has a nice balance between their friendship and what could be a romance – but they realize how that romance could change their friendship.  In past books it has been clear and Sam and Phyllis were married to the loves of their lives and the way they are resolving the deaths of their spouses is realistically and compassionately done.

The mystery in this one was nicely developed.  At points it reminded me of the Kennedy assassination with the shots being fired from a high up floor in a downtown building.  But it wasn’t done in a trivial or sensationalist manner.  Washburn also has some pretty choice red herrings sprinkled throughout the book and the ending was a surprise because of how well she wove the mystery. 

Each book in this series is a stand-alone and they do not have to be read in order.  It is an advantage to do so if only to see the progression in the characters’ relationships – it is one of the most entertaining cozy series.

This is an objective review and not an endorsement of this book.

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