Mrs. Claus and the Santaland Slayings
April, a hotel owner on the coast of Oregon, falls in love with Nick when he stays at her inn. She’s more than a little shocked to learn that he is Nick Claus, younger brother of Chris Claus, but still marries him. After Chris dies in a freak accident, Nick must don the famous red suit per family tradition.
Acclimating to the North Pole is no easy task. April must learn to endure the extreme cold and master the strict rules of etiquette for Mrs. Claus. At the same time, Nick is acting Santa for the first time, figuring out his duties. One of his tasks is judging the ice sculpting competition.
Elf Giblet Hollyberry, who has a public argument with Nick after placing second in the competition is found dead, killed by a black widow spider. At first, Constable Crinkle declares the death an accident, but soon rumors swirl that Nick is responsible for the elf’s death.
To save Christmas, April decides to secretly investigate Giblet’s death. Her attempts to create peace in Santaland might backfire and put her in the killer’s sights.
While the mystery is solid with lots of possible suspects and unexpected threads tied together, what is most fun about the book is Ireland’s creative world-building. Santaland is populated with the royalty-like Clauses, elves, snow monsters, snowmen, and a multitude of rituals around Christmas including the Reindeer Games.
The characters are also endearing, particularly Quasar, a klutzy one-antlered reindeer who lives in the castle; Jingles, the castle’s head elf; and Nick’s sister, Lucia, a Valkyerian animal lover. However, I do wish there had been more characterization of Nick and interaction between Nick and April.
This cozy mystery really embodies the spirit of Christmas. Read for an intensive immersion in the holiday!