Reviewed by Jim Napier
It’s that time of year again, and readers who enjoy cozies can look forward to an onslaught of festive felonies, tales that feature mostly likeable characters caught up in some nefarious events, with violence carefully kept to a minimum or occurring off-stage, and capped by a satisfying ending.
In Vicki Delany’s latest effort the denizens of Rudolph, New York are looking forward to a prosperous Christmas season for the merchants in their aptly-named town. Among their numbers Merry Wilkinson (yes, you read correctly) is counting on the season of good will to generate tidy profits for the town and for her shop, which specializes in – what else? – Christmas-themed ornaments and gifts.
But things are not going well. First, Merry’s float in the Santa Claus parade is sabotaged. Then an influential travel magazine reporter who’d planned to give the town a big PR boost is found dead -- poisoned, it turns out, by a gingerbread cookie from the bakery of her best friend Vicky.
The throngs of visitors that the town depends on for its once-a-year shopping spree are beginning to dwindle, in part lured away by fear-mongering publicity from Muddle Harbor, a nearby community anxious to line its own coffers, and the merchants of Rudolph are beginning to panic: the B&Bs and hotels are reporting cancellations, the restaurants are sparsely populated, and the window-shoppers are light on the ground. But they say that bad things come in threes, and it’s not long before the maxim is borne out: a sidewalk barbeque bursts into flame, sending the hapless chef to the hospital in full view of out-of-town shoppers. Will the good people of Rudolph find only lumps of coal in their stockings this year?
First appearing on the Canadian crime-writing scene in 2002, Ottawa's Vicki Delany quickly established herself as a prolific wordsmith, having penned, in just over a decade, three series totaling fourteen previous works, together with four standalones. She casts her net very wide indeed, covering light police procedurals set in the fictional mountain town of Trafalgar, BC, several period tales rooted in the Klondike during the Gold Rush, and two novels set, respectively, in the South Sudan and in Haiti. Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen is the first of a projected series of year-round Christmas mysteries. Firmly in the cozy tradition, with (for the most part) likeable characters, it effectively captures the atmosphere of touristy small-towns in upstate New York. Readers in search of a light and entertaining tale suited to the season should enjoy Delany’s latest work.
Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen is published by Berkley (Penguin Group USA).