Mistletoe and Murder, by Connie Berry

October 13, 2023 Book Reviews 3 ★★★★½

Mistletoe and Murder, by Connie BerryMistletoe and Murder by Connie Berry
Published by Crooked Lane Books on October 17, 2023
Genres: Mystery, Cozy Mystery
Pages: 154
Format: Kindle or ebook
Source: the publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Audible | Chirp
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Also by this author: A Legacy of Murder, The Art of Betrayal

In Connie Berry’s festive holiday novella Mistletoe and Murder, American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton has a long way to go before she gets down the aisle, but will someone stand in the way of her happily ever after?

Five days before her wedding to Detective Inspector Tom Mallory, Kate Hamilton finds her friend Sheila in need of her help. Sheila, a soon-to-be bride herself, needs Kate’s help to get Carl Curtis, her fiancé, out of Venezuela. His passport was taken from him by the authorities, and they say he owes them money. Carl says it’s a bribe, but he’s unable to leave unless it’s paid.

Sheila decides to sell her grandfather’s coin collection, including a valuable gold coin presented by Queen Victoria to her great-grandmother. Among her grandfather’s stored possessions is a letter from the Queen. When someone breaks into Sheila’s house, all signs point to even more foul play. As Kate deals with a disturbing number of wedding-plan hitches, a fire in town reveals a body. Unfortunately, the burned-out flat is next to the bridal salon where Kate’s dress is being altered. Can the cleaners really eliminate the odor of smoke?

As the clock ticks down to Kate and Tom’s “I do”s, Kate goes to Sheila’s house to help her search for the royal letter, but she’s nowhere to be found. The house has been torn apart, and Sheila is missing. Could Sheila’s disappearance be connected to the death in town? Kate will have to piece together the clues.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

Wedding bells, treasure trove, and a missing widow

Kate and Tom’s wedding is only 5 days away, but when Kate’s friend Sheila goes missing after bringing a coin collection to the antiques shop for appraisal, the intrepid couple take on the task of finding her… before it’s too late.

Mistletoe and Murder is a novella with a solid mystery. While I figured out parts of the puzzle early on, with one character in particular throwing up red flags almost immediately, other aspects of the plot kept me guessing until close to the climax. Kate (an American antiques dealer with a flair for solving mysteries) makes an engaging first-person narrator, while her fiance Tom (a British police detective) provides a steadying, supportive presence along with access to records, information, and the apparatus of official investigations. Watching Kate and Tom juggle pre-wedding appointments against their responsibilities toward the investigation, it’s clear that both of them put duty and friendship over the details of the wedding preparations… but they also put each other first, leading to a dramatic climactic scene and a delightful wedding.

If I have any quibble, it’s with the pacing of the last chapter or two; the post-wedding section, involving clearing up some final details of the mystery, sags a little in terms of energy. It’s also clear that Kate and Tom haven’t entirely worked out at least one potential issue in their relationship, and I anticipate that will become a source of tension in the next book. Being the sort of reader who gets invested in the characters I like, that worries me a bit, but I do trust Ms. Berry to work it all out in the end.

A final note: Don’t read this book first! You’ll enjoy it much more if you’ve read the previous books. Start with the first book in the series, A Dream of Death. The entire series is wonderful, combining well-plotted mysteries with interesting characters and charming or atmospheric settings. While the books fit the definition of “cozy” due their amateur detective and avoidance of gruesome violence, Berry takes the risks and realities of crime seriously. The result is that the books feel similar to the Golden Age mysteries of Agatha Christie or Ngaio Marsh, updated to a contemporary setting and a modern sensibility. Berry’s choice to make the narrator an ex-pat American is the icing on the cake; you get all the pleasure of the British village setting, with the necessary explanations (for an American audience) built into Kate’s narration. I highly recommend them.

Challenges: COYER Upside-Down, Chapt. 3; NetGalley & Edelweiss Challenge 2023.


About Connie Berry

Like her protagonist, Connie Berry was raised in the antiques trade. After teaching theology for twenty-five years, she took up writing mysteries featuring high-end antiques and the legacy of the past. Connie loves history, cute animals, travel with a hint of adventure, and all things British. She lives in Ohio with her husband and adorable dog, Millie.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • COYER Upside-Down 2023: Chapter 3
  • NetGalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge 2023

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