This collection includes six short mystery stories set around the holidays. Most of them also have at least a hint of romance and you'll even come across a Christmas miracle or two. None of the selections are earth-shattering but, as with all anthologies, they give you an introduction to authors you may never have read otherwise, which is why I like to use collections like this one as a way to `test drive' for writers whose works I've been thinking about reading. Overall, this is a passable group of stories, but one you would probably be just as happy getting from the library as buying.
All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth, Lori Avocato (3 stars)
Medical Insurance Fraud Investigator Pauline Sokol, with a little help from the sexy Jagger, decides to do a good deed and help poor Leonard Niski get his bridge work back in time to chow down on some Christmas ham. However, when Pauline starts looking into the jolly dentist, Dr. Elfin Santana, she finds things are way more complicated than she expected. Has she bitten off more than she can chew? (Sorry, I can never resist a truly horrible pun.)
The Lords of Misrule, Dana Cameron (4 stars)
In Dana Cameron's contribution, Miss Margaret Chase helps to solve a Christmas Eve crime involving theft and murder - with a little help from her brother and his enigmatic friend. Set in 1722, The Lords of Misrule is a classic English manor house mystery and was my favorite in this collection. The mystery was well plotted, the characters intriguing and the historical setting warm and inviting.
The Ghost of Christmas Passed, Mary Daheim (2 stars)
Mary Daheim delivers a Christmas miracle, of sorts, in The Ghost of Christmas Passed. When amateur sleuth and innkeeper Judith McMonigle Flynn gathers her boisterous extended family together for their traditional Christmas Eve celebration, conversation turns to her mother's brother Bart, who disappeared many years ago. As Judith learns more about her mysterious Uncle, it seems like his spirit may be looking for a way to join the family gathering. This story was a bit confusing for me. I felt like I would have appreciated more if I had read some of the books in Ms. Daheim's series featuring Judith.
Partners in Crime, Cait London (3 stars)
I liked this story, but I would have liked it more if it had been longer. It felt like bits and pieces (and not inconsequential pieces) had been cut out of a longer story to make it the right size for this collection. Cecilia Lattimore gets a little holiday help from an unexpected source in this story by Cait London. A professional organizer, Cecilia's being threatened by someone who's breaking into her house and throwing her things into disarray. When a homeless man comes to her aid, Cecilia decides to organize his life as a way to say thank you, but Joe Berenger isn't quite as down on his luck as he has led Cecilia to believe.
Holly Go Lightly, Suzanne MacPherson (2 stars)
In Suzanne MacPherson's story, Nick Fredericks can't seem to get his dead ex-fianceé off of his mind. After spending all of Christmas Eve thinking about Holly, Nick finally realizes her spirit is trying to tell him something important. When Holly's ghost leads him to a seaside bungalow early Christmas morning, Nick discovers true Christmas Joy. This story was sweet, but not very believable, and I'm not talking about the ghost here. The way Nick and everyone in his family takes the presence of Holly's spirit so calmly didn't ring true for me, nor did the events in Carmel after Nick's arrival.
A Very Vampy Christmas, Kerrelynn Sparks (2 stars)
In this campy, funny tale a newly made vampire suffering from amnesia gets help from his fangy soap-opera co-star when he goes searching for his lost past. The story is well- written, and the ending is satisfying, but all in all, it was a little bit cheesy. And not in the laugh-out-loud-meant-to-be-cheesy kind of way the author was aiming for (at least, I think she was). Just, you know, cheesy.