Today, Hartford Books Examiner reviews three recent titles in holiday fiction.
For cozy mystery fans, Jane Cleland’s “Ornaments of Death” (Minotaur Books)—the tenth title in her critically acclaimed series featuring antiques appraiser/amateur sleuth Josie Prescott—was published earlier this month. Josie, now a rising star with her own TV show, has just made the acquaintance of a distant relative, Ian Bennington, and is excited to introduce him around at Prescott Antiques’ annual holiday party. Ian is a (mostly) welcome addition to the festivities—until he goes missing without a trace.
Frustrated by the constraints of local law enforcement, Josie initiates her own investigation into Ian’s disappearance. Not only does she turn up a viable pool of suspects, but also deadly knowledge pertaining to a pair of extremely valuable 17th century miniature portraits that have also gone missing. Set against the always inviting backdrop of fictitious Rocky Neck, New Hampshire, “Ornaments of Death” is chockfull of seasonal ambiance—and, amidst the merry mayhem, serves as a reminder that families are not merely what we’re born into but also what we make.
For women’s fiction enthusiasts, Elin Hilderbrand’s “Winter Stroll” (Little, Brown and Company)—the second entry in a holiday-themed trilogy that launched with last year’s “Winter Street”—is also available. Set one year after the events of the first book, this story finds Quinn family patriarch, Kelley, reflecting on a year of happiness and heartache as his nearest and dearest descend on his Inn for Nantucket’s annual Christmas Stroll. (Forgive the generalizations, but this is a spoiler-free zone.)
While the customary comfort and joy is offset by a series of weighty subplots—including storylines that deal with dependency, incarceration, and infidelity—Hilderbrand ultimately triumphs in showcasing the redemptive powers of forgiveness and the complex-yet-charitable nature of family. “Winter Street” satisfies as a standalone story but readers will be left anxiously anticipating next year’s conclusion to this engrossing saga.
Finally, perennial holiday favorite Debbie Macomber returns with “Dashing Through the Snow” (Ballantine Books)—the latest in a string of titles that have been adapted for television by Hallmark. As the story opens, readers are introduced to grad student Ashley Davison, who wants desperately to surprise her mother for Christmas. Full flights and other complications conspire against her; instead, she finds herself sharing a rental car with Dash Sutherland, a former army intelligence officer who is equally desperate to get to Seattle for a job interview.
Though the initial sparks between Ashley and Dash are ones of contention, there’s also an underlying romantic tension that has the potential to ignite. A string of mishaps and misadventures ensue as the two—joined on their journey by an adorable puppy—race the clock (and the weather … and the law!) to reach their final destination. As always, Macomber mixes heart with hijinks and hilarity to ensure a memorable reading experience that celebrates the magic of the season.
What’s kept you turning pages, dear readers? Sound off in the comments section below.