A Very Merry Murder (A Professor Prather Mystery)
by Mary Angela
About the Book
A Very Merry Murder (A Professor Prather Mystery)
3rd in Series
Camel Press (October 1, 2018)
Paperback: 258 pages
Digital ASIN: B07G2VLLCV
It’s December in Copper Bluff, and from hillside to hallowed hall, everyone is merry—or will be as soon as semester break arrives. Students are studying, professors are grading, and Emmeline Prather is anticipating the university-sponsored holiday concert. Friend and colleague Lenny Jenkins will be accompanying the visiting quartet, Jazz Underground, and Em can’t think of a better way to kick-start the holiday season.
But before she can say “Jingle Bell Rock,” trouble arrives at Candlelight Inn, the bed and breakfast where the quartet is staying. One of the band members dies unexpectedly, and suspicion falls on Em, whose altercation with the man ends with him on the floor. He never recovers, and now she’s worried her reputation might not either. When Emmeline starts to see parallels between an Agatha Christie novel she’s teaching and the victim, Lenny claims she’s read one too many mysteries.
As the clues unravel, so does the murderer’s patience. Em is close to finding the truth, but will the truth—or the murderer—push her over the edge? It will take a Christmas miracle to solve this case, but if there’s one thing in surplus this time of year, it’s faith.
My first Christmas Cozy read and what a delightful, atmospheric one it is… well minus the murder of course!
Professor Emmeline Prather is an English professor in the sleepy college town of Copper Bluff, South Dakota, and an amateur sleuth in her time off. Although this is the third book in the series, I read it without having read the first two and never felt lost or disoriented. The story stands on its own and characters are fleshed out well enough to not need much backstory. Little bits of previous books are mentioned where necessary but never over done.
The main character is Em, a young college professor trying to advance her life and career in Copper Bluff. She may not be a great cook but she’s passionate about literature! She’s spunky and inquisitive and generally a likable protagonist. Unlike many cozy heroines, she does not naively or stupidly enter dangerous situations… they just sort of happen to her! Like many Cozy heroines, she does take it upon herself to ask questions and investigate crimes, especially one where she is being considered a suspect.
The supporting characters are an interesting bunch. I was particularly fond of Officer Sophie Barnes, who is also one of Em’s former students. She manages to be bubbly and professional all at once, while providing excellent police info.
The mystery itself was really well-done. The cast of suspects was varied, as were the motives… though some were far more compelling than others. There were several red herrings. I narrowed down my main two culprits just before the last third of the story and had hopes for one more than the other. I won’t tell you if it was the one I wanted or not…. It was easy to be drawn into the story and the lives of the characters.
My only grouse with the story is the big reveal. Em makes a big show of calling out each person and listing the reasons why they could have possibly been the killer. While it is a nice way to ‘summarise’ the story, characters and motives, it is also a good way to seriously annoy innocent people. For a generally nice person, such a tactic was unkind and mean when used by Em. It didn’t seem in-keeping with the character that had been presented throughout the book.
Some things I liked:
- Em has a decent relationship with the police in Copper Bluff.
- Mrs. Gunderson’s cookies, cakes and pasteries.
- Mrs. Gunderson’s critical-but-in-a-‘good’-way comments about Em’s life.
- Em’s Crimes and Passion: Women Writers of the 21stCentury course. Wish I could have done one like that!
- Good cast of suspects.
- The Christmas ambiance.
One of my favourite parts was the description of the A Christmas Carol play. Made me want to head right out to see it… I just love theatre productions of Scrooge!
Lights flooded the stage, and suddenly it was Christmas Eve. The problem of Lenny and Belle disappeared in a flurry of music and dialogue. Ebenezer Scrooge was cursing the holiday as carolers sang “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” He was halfway up the steps of his crooked house before I remembered what was coming. I jumped as the doorknocker revealed Jacob Marley’s face, illuminated in a dull light, eyes wide and spectacled, hair stirred as if by a “breath of hot air.” The theater department had gotten it just right.
Something I didn’t so much like:
- The big reveal was a tad mean-spirited and out of character.
Overall this Cozy mystery had ambiance, fun, mystery and loads of Christmas spirit!
I give it 4/5 christmas-flavoured shots.
Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed this book as part of the A Very Merry Murder blog tour. All opinions expressed are my own.
About the Author
Mary Angela is the author of the Professor Prather academic mystery series, which has been called “enjoyable” and “clever” by Publishers Weekly. She is also an educator and has taught English and humanities at South Dakota’s public and private universities for over ten years. When Mary isn’t writing or teaching, she enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family.
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