I was very dismayed when I learned that Joan Hess passed away in 2017. She was a wonderful cozy mystery writer.
I wanted to review one of her older books (still available on Amazon and other booksellers): A Holly, Jolly Murder. It is one of my favorite holiday reads. Joan sure knew how to weave intricate plots and amazingly colorful characters into her books. She had me “going” until the very end as I tried to figure out who were the good guys and who were the bad guys.
Claire Malloy runs a quiet little bookstore. But the bookstore doesn’t really play very much into the story. What starts the story rolling is when Claire’s current beau, Peter, tells her she’s become a bit too mundane and predictable. Of course, that goes over about as well as the Hindenburg’s maiden voyage.
When a little old lady shows up in her bookstore looking for a book on pagan rituals, Claire also gets a private invitation from her to attend the winter solstice celebration.
To prove Peter wrong, Claire decides to be utterly spontaneous and finds herself showing up at the Sacred Grove for the dawn festivities. The group is filled with a very unique and somewhat bizarre cast of characters. You’ve got your arch druid, wiccans, a neo-pagan, new agers and several others — all following their own spiritual path and all doing their “own” thing.
It’s an interesting mix of folks and a whole different breed of unusual characters. That’s what makes this book so delightful. Joan’s characters are tightly woven and very believable. The conflicts between the characters, their beliefs and the eventual murder of one of their own, will keep you wondering what’s really going on. Things are not what they seem.
To make this cozy even more interesting, you’ll find Claire’s teenage daughter getting into a whole lot of expensive trouble as an assistant in Santa’s workshop….an entertaining little story in itself. I loved watching Claire getting sucked into the murder by the members of the solstice celebration, while trying to keep calm and apply “logic” to the whole messy murder business. Plus, she stills needs to figure out how to handle her daughter’s costly legal problem and ignore the fact that her boyfriend, Peter won’t be around for Christmas. And yes, she’s still trying to keep that ‘ole holiday spirit, even if it kills her – and it just might!
But just like Bruce Willis in Die Hard, Claire Malloy lives up to the challenge!
Joan Hess left us too soon, but her wonderful books will live on in our imaginations and she, in our hearts. Check out this wonderful mystery series — cozy up with a warm snuggly blanket and let Claire Malloy take you away for the holidays!
AUTHORS CAN CONTACT ANN I. WONDER AT: ANN@WONDERWOMENSIXTY.COM