A Special Pennyfoot Hotel Mystery

By Kate Kingsbury

Berkley Prime Crime, 2012 ($15.00)

ISBN-13: 978-0-425-25327-4

Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel

Life at the Pennyfoot Country Club (formerly Hotel) is something like early Agatha Christie with a bit of Upstairs/Downstairs and a pinch of Fawlty Towers. At Christmas time, things get even more hectic, due in part to the fear that the dreaded Christmas Curse will strike again. Much to the dismay of the managers, Cecily Sinclair Baxter and her husband, one of the guests is dead before the Christmas pudding is finished. He seemed like a nice man: he saved a drowning dog, after all. But as Cecily looks into the matter, she finds he might have been a very nasty bloke indeed. Many of the guests and some of the staff have valid reasons for wishing him dead. The inept policeman assigned to the case believes he has an open and shut case, but Cecily has other ideas.

This is not the first time Cecily has investigated crimes on the premises, putting herself and her trusty sidekick Samuel the chauffeur in peril many a time. Her husband tries to put a stop to this investigation, but reluctantly agrees to let her poke around if she'll agree to avoid danger. She agrees, and she means it, really she does, but...

This is the thirteenth Pennyfoot Hotel mystery. The mystery rivals anything Christie wrote, with plenty of twists and turns and red herrings, but the real pleasure in this book is in the characters and the predicaments they get into. There is a nasty temporary housekeeper who ticks off all the staff and even has Cecily quaking in fear, and a "French" chef who is about as Gallic as a toad in the hole. Young kitchen maid Pansy and Samuel, the chauffeur, have a sweet romance that will remind the reader of the two young lovers in Downton Abbey. The Christmas pageant put on by the blue-velvet-coiffed Phoebe Carter-Holmes is as moving, and as unintentionally hilarious, as always, and there is much, much more.

For some Christmas cheer, be sure to read THE CLUE IS IN THE PUDDING. Yule be glad you did.

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