A Renaissance Faire Mystery

By Joyce and Jim Lavene

Berkley Prime Crime, 2012 ($7.99)

ISBN-13: 978-0-425-25158-4

Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel

Grad-student Jessie Morton usually works at the Renaissance Faire Village during the summer, but she's got some time off from the university and she welcomes the chance to spend some cold winter nights cuddling with her sweetheart Chase Manhattan. Chase is the bailiff of the village, which has come in handy the many times Jessie has gotten embroiled in crimes in the past.

Jessie has been an apprentice in several crafts in previous stays in the village, although she was not always a successful student. She is looking forward to working with Father Christmas, who will teach her to make wooden toys, because she thinks she has a talent for it. Too bad. She's barely begun to carve when Chris Christmas, a rosy-cheeked fellow with an eye for the ladies, bites the sawdust. Chris leaves to mourn him his widow Christine and a sleighfull of kids.

Jessie stumbles across the body, literally, and the circumstances make her a suspect, at least in the eyes of Detective Donald Almond. He and Jessie have crossed paths before, and neither one is glad to see the other. Almond seems to think her middle name is "trouble." She has another name for him, not quite so polite.

Queen Olivia is nine months pregnant, expecting the babe just around Christmas day. King Harold may or may not be the father: the royal couple has both been known to stray from time to time. Is it a coincidence that Father Christmas had been seen with the queen nine months ago? The queen, not wanting to risk having the babe delivered by the sinister village nurse Wanda Le Fey, has instituted a daily "get me to the hospital" drill by her attendants, with amusing and disastrous results. Just another fun activity at the faire.

This is the fifth Renaissance Faire mystery, perhaps the best in the series. There is a lot of Christmas color in the village, with every tenant, including the pirates, getting into the holiday spirit. The mystery is engaging, with plenty of suspects. Jessie is making some progress in her life, with several big decisions to make. This is another entertaining book from the Lavenes, who also write the Peggy Lee Garden Mysteries and the Missing Pieces Mysteries.

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