The merry spirit of Christmas is put to the test at the prestigious Pennyfoot Hotel when two bizarre deaths occur during holiday festivities -- the corpse of a man dressed as Saint Nicholas is, in fact, found stuck in the chimney.
In Kate Kingsbury's 14th novel revolving around the much-historied seaside hotel in Edwardian England (No Clue at the Inn, Maid to Murder, et al.), the hotel's former owner and current manager, Cecily Sinclair Baxter -- an amateur sleuth with a "penchant for plunging into unfortunate situations" -- must not only discreetly unravel the mystery surrounding the inexplicable deaths but also downplay increasingly strange sightings of a mischievous ghost haunting the hotel, so that the numerous guests of the Pennyfoot have an enjoyable holiday stay. To complicate matters, Cecily's husband has been spending an unusual amount of time with a beautiful and "delectable" singer named Elise Boulanger. With a plethora of potential suspects staying at the hotel (the perpetually ill-tempered Desmond Atkins, the handsome but melancholic Jeremy Westhaven, et al.), Cecily is forced to use all of her well-honed deductive skills to solve the mystery -- and stay alive.
Utilizing classic plot devices from Agatha Christie's vast repertoire, as well as -- strangely enough -- elements from the board game Clue (there's a character named the Colonel, a knife as a murder weapon, and a crime committed in the library), Kingsbury's holiday-themed offering is, while somewhat formulaic, a charming and highly entertaining historical whodunit. Plum pudding not included. Paul Goat Allen