King Arthur Fudgy Brownies

Thoughts Before Baking:

So I had originally wanted to post a Christmas mystery, but I just didn’t have very many-I’ll have to step it up next year, so you are all getting a recipe instead.

Christmas is coming and I continued my yearly tradition of baking cookies for certain families as their Christmas gift!

I thought that instead of making three dozen of one cookie, I would do three different cookies. That way I would be sure to have something everyone would love. So of course I did Rice Krispies Cookies, as everyone loves them.

The second cookie I decided on the Crispy, Chewy Matcha Green Tea Cookies

With the third cookie I decided to consult my The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion: The Essential Cookie Cookbook and settled on Fudgy Brownies.

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Yes Brownies are cookies, they are called bar cookies.

From the Cookbook: “Many of us here at King Arthur decided that our perfect brownie should be fudgy but not gooey, and rich enough to satisfy on its own. It should be assertively flavored and able to stand up to hot fudge sauce and vanilla ice cream. Also, it needs to have a crisp top layer-as one of the kids said, “Just like the ones from a box.” The following recipe fills the bill. Chocolate Chips will provide tiny molten pockets of chocolate within the greater brownie landscape. Add them if your desire for fudginess is limitless.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 Cup (1.5 sticks) of Unsalted Butter
  • 2 Cups of Sugar
  • 1 Cup of Dutch Process Cocoa Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Baking Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 1 Cup of Unbleached Flour
  • 1 Cup of Chopped Walnuts or Pecans
  • 1 Cup of Chocolate Chips

Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
    2. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch pan
    3. In a medium microwave safe bowl, or medium saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter.
    4. Add the sugar and stir to combine.
    5. Return mixture to heat, or microwave, briefly until it is hot, but not bubbling-it will become shiny when you stir it. Heating the mixture the second time will dissolve more of the sugar, which give the brownies a shiny top.
    6. Stir in cocoa, salt, baking powder, and vanilla.
    7. Whisk in the eggs, stirring until smooth.
    8. Add the flour, nuts, and chocolate chips-stirring until smooth. 
    9. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.
    10. Bake the brownies for 29-32 mins, or until a cake tester/knife is inserted and comes out clean or with only a few amounts of crumb clinging to it.
    11. The edges of the brownies should be set, but the center still soft.
    12. Remove brownies from the oven and cool on rack before cutting and serving.

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Thoughts After Reading:

These brownies are AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!

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I wanted to eat them ALL!!!!!!!

Victorian-Christmas-Traditions

Merry Christmas!!!!!

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For more from the King Arthur Cookie Companion, go to Sugar Puffs

For more brownies, go to The “Best” Brownies

For more Bar Cookies, go to Lemon Bars

For more cookies, go to Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix in a Mason Jar

Lowcountry Bordello

Ready for our final Christmas mystery?

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Here we go:

Lowcountry Bordello (Liz Talbot Mystery #4) by Susan M. Boyer

It’s Christmastime in Stella Maris and P.I. Liz Talbot is preparing the last few things she needs to complete for her wedding, only days away. She’s interrupted when her cousin and bridesmaid, Olivia, calls to say that she discovered her husband’s dead body.

OMG gasp

When Liz heads out to Charleston to meet with Olivia they discover the body is “missing” and Olivia’s husband is alive and well. Liz thinks it is all in Olivia’s imagination, that is until a dead body matching the description is found not too far away.

hmmmaliasgrace

Hmmm…

Even though she is swamped with wedding details and the upcoming Christmas holidays, Liz decides to investigate. Things take an even more surprising turn as Liz discovers the house in which Olivia found the dead body is not only Olivia’s aunt’s house but also a bordello.

cyborgsaywhat

I know, right?

When it turns out that the person murdered was about to blow the whistle on it, Liz finds the case brimming with suspects; five mistresses, six johns, and an illegitimate relative that’s always wanted his due. To make matters even more difficult, Olivia is arrested for the murder and if Liz doesn’t solve the case before her wedding, she’ll be out one bridesmaid and her best alive friend.

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Thoughts After Reading:

Susan M. Boyer has done it again. I’ve never been a big fan of mysteries in which one of the main characters was a spirit helping aid the detective, nor Southern mysteries; but Boyer’s incredible storytelling and writing is able to push past any reservations I might have. Not only is Boyer’s mystery amazing with its colorful and endearing cast of characters, but also provoking and challenging as we have multiple crimes and multiple suspects; with surprises and twists at every turn of the page.

WhoDoneIt?

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, finding it practically impossible to put down. Even when I wasn’t reading the book, part of my mind continued to contemplate, guess, and wonder what the reveal would be. Boyer has created another masterpiece and I am looking forward to the next one in the series. I give this book a five out of five stars!

cluelesstravistwothumbsup!

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For more Liz Talbot Mysteries, go to Lowcountry Boneyard

For more by Susan M. Boyer, go to Lowcountry Bombshell

For more Christmas mysteries, go to And Only to Deceive

For more private investigators, go to The Key to Midnight

For more female private investigators, go to The Case of the Invisible Dog

Glazed Sugar Cookies

Merry Christmas!

For our first Christmas recipe we have a sugar cookie from the cookbook Christmas Cookies.

Cookie Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup of Butter Softened
  • 1 Cup of Sugar
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 3 Cups of All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Salt

Glaze Ingredients:

  • 1 16-oz Package of Powdered Sugar
  • 4-6 Tablespoons of Hot Water

Royal Icing:

  • 1 16-oz Package of Powdered Sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons Meringue Powder
  • 6 Tablespoons Hot Water
  • Liquid Food Coloring (Optional)
  • Edible Gold Dust
  • Clear Vanilla Extract

Directions for Cookies:

  1. Beat butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy.
  2. Add egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla, beating until blended.
  3. Gradually add flour and salt, beating just until blended.
  4. Divide dough in half; cover and chill for 1 hour.
  5. Roll each portion of dough to 1/4 inch thickness on a lightly floured surface.
  6. Cut dough into desired shapes with a 3.5 inch cutter, and place on lightly greased baking sheets.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees F for 8 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned.
  8. Remove to wire racks to cool.
  9. Dip cookies in glaze; place on wax paper to dry.
  10. Decorate with Royal Icing.
  11. Combine 1/4 Teaspoon gold dust and 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract with a small paintbrush.
  12. Working quickly, brush on gold accents, add 1 drop of clear vanilla extract at a time, as needed, to moisten gold dust.
  13. Sprinkle on more gold dust if desired.
  14. Yields about 16 cookies

Directions for Glaze:

  1. Whisk powdered sugar and hot water until smooth. Yields 1 1/3 cups.

Royal Icing:

  1. Stir together the powdered sugar, meringue powder, and hot water until smooth.
  2. Add in food coloring, if desired.
  3. Pour into a decorating bag or zip-top freezer bag.
  4. Snip a tiny hole in the corner of the bag and decorate if desired.
  5. Yields about 3 cups.

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Thoughts After Baking:

So first of all, I didn’t decorate these, I had 3-5 year olds do it so they don’t look as nice as they would have, if I had done it. They were delicious, and the kids loved them.

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For more Christmas Cookies, go to Braided Candy Canes

For more Sugar Cookies, go to Sugar Puffs

For more cookie recipes, go to Eggless Cookie Dough

For more desserts, go to The “Best” Brownies

And Only to Deceive

So every year in December leading up to Christmas I try and post a Christmas mystery. This year I had a really difficult time and had to go out on a bit of a limb. This book isn’t a “Christmas Mystery” but Christmas does play a role so it counts.

And Only to Deceive (Lady Emily Mystery #1) by Tasha Alexander

Lady Emily is a widow.

But she isn’t sad as she never loved her husband.

Lady Emily Ashton is an only daughter and all her life her mother has been plotting and planning and maneuvering to get her daughter married off to a wealthy and eligible bachelor.

Emily chose Viscount Phillip Ashton as he seemed less chauvinistic and someone who would be okay to live with-and  of course by marrying she would be free of her mother.

Phillip was interested in the hunt, captured his quarry, and then went on a big game hunt to Africa were he became sick and died.

Emily was given freedom, money, large houses-she had to be absent from society for two years but that was okay as she didn’t really care for it. Life was solitary but it wasn’t bad.

Everything changed when her husband’s best friend came to visit after a year and a half. Mr Colin Hargreaves came to speak to Emily about how he made sure her Greek Villa was all in order, and she is free to go there anytime, just let him know and he will arrange the trip for her, Kallista.

Emily is completely surprised as her husband never said any thing about a villa and he never called her Kallista.

Emily is baffled by this and even more when her butler let’s her know that he fired a footman who was digging in her late husband’s desk. She starts looking to see if anything is missing,-although how would she know as she has never been in there really-and discovers a threatening note.

This is just the firsts in a series that makes Emily realize she knew very little, if anything about her husband. It turns out that he was an avid collector or Greek art-throughly knowledgeable in it and Greek history.

Hmm…

She also finds his journals and reads about his love for her (in incredibly sweet journal entries).

Emily’s interest is piqued and she begins reading Homer’s The Odyssey and researching into Greek art and mythology.

She discovers more things do not add up and that her husband was caught up in a fake antiquary scam. Could it be that he was duped, with all his knowledge and expertise? Or was he the ringleader?

Emily cannot believe the later, and as she reads her husband’s journals, she starts to fall in love with him, and remember wonderful and romantic gestures he would do, but took for granted at the time.

Emily isn’t sure who to trust, besides her old friend Ivy and new friend Lady Cécile du Lac. Colin spends a lot of time around her, and then she discovers that he has been watching her. Why? Could he be the ringleader?

Hmm…

She also meets another friend of her husband, Andrew Palmer, who is fun, light, sarcastic, and likes to party and go out. He gives Emily a lot of attention and she enjoys it, as anyone who has been sent to the sidelines would. He is from noble stock, but has no money. Could he be after her wealth, or is he really interested in her.

Hmm…

Colin and Andrew were both on the hunting trip with her husband, could one of them have killed him?

Then Emily gets a note about her husband being alive! Is he a criminal hiding out? Or was he betrayed by a friend and in need?

Emily sets off on a trek to Africa, will she be happy with what she finds? Or is she heading into a trap?!

Thoughts After Reading:

I really enjoyed this mystery as I liked that Emily was an independent woman with a strong personality and ideas about what she wanted, but at the same time she was still a woman of her times. I hate when people write historical fiction and the people are too much a product of our time. It makes zero sense.

I can’t wait to read the next book in the series!

For more Christmas Mysteries, go to Mail Order Murder

For more historical fiction, go to The Secret Keeper

For more mysteries about widows, go to A Quiche Before Dying

Christmas Lace Cookies

Plumpuddingmurder

Thoughts Before Cooking:

This book had a few recipes I was interested in, and this was one that sounded good and just right for Christmas.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 Cups of Rolled Oats
  • 1/2 Cup of Melted Butter
  • 3/4 Cup of White Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon of Baking Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon of Flour
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1.5 Teaspoons of Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Beaten Egg
  • 1/2 Cup of Chocolate Chips

Directions:

  1. Measure the oatmeal into a a medium-sized bowl.
  2. Melt the butter and pour it over the oatmeal. Stir.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, baking powder, flour, and salt. Mix well.
  4. Add the sugar mixture to the oatmeal mix and blend.
  5. Mix in the vanilla and egg.
  6. Add the chocolate chips and stir the mixture.
  7. Line cookie sheets with foil and grease lightly.
  8. Drop the cookie dough by rounded teaspoons. Don’t crowd the cookies together as they spread.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees F for 12 minutes.

Thoughts After Baking:

These were good but very buttery and greasy. They also cooked fast so watch out, or else you might burn them. But otherwise, very good.

For more Hannah Swensen recipes, go to Vanilla Crackle

For more recipes from Plum Pudding Murder, go to Christmas Cheese Rounds

For more cookie recipe, go to Basic Shortbread

For more dessert, go to Baked Apple Slices

Wuthering Heights

So this year it has been really hard to find Christmas themed mysteries. I’m starting off with this one as it does have a ghost and mystery of what happened, the main character wanting to know more and the whole story. It also has a Christmas scene in it, so it counts.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

I know it is unusual but there is a Christmas scene so it does count!

I love Wuthering Heights, it has always been one of my favorite books. I used to be in love with Heathcliff.

So the book has one of the best beginnings ever. A man, Mr. Lockwood, has been renting a house in the country as he wants to get away from everyone and everything.

However, he realizes that the hermit life is not cut out for him. He visits with his landlord, finding him hospitable, if a little brusque. He decides to surprise him one day and visit and finds his host angry-the house Wuthering Heights to be very unhappy. Mr. Heathcliff is angry, there is a Mrs. Catherine Heathcliff who is also angry and says she is a witch, Haerton Earnshaw who is an illiterate Neanderthal, and Joseph a grumpy hand. The snow keeps him from leaving and he has to stay the night.

Mr. Lockwood is goes to a room no one uses, it has been untouched for years. He finds himself unable to fall asleep and stays up reading a diary by Catherine Earnshaw, who lived in that room. Then we have one of the spookiest, chillingest, best writings:

I heard distinctly the gusty wind, and the driving of the snow; I heard, also, the fir bough repeat its teasing sound, and ascribed it to the right cause: but it annoyed me so much, that I resolved to silence it, if possible; and, I thought, I rose and endeavoured to unhasp the casement. The hook was soldered into the staple: a circumstance observed by me when awake, but forgotten. ‘I must stop it, nevertheless!’ I muttered, knocking my knuckles through the glass, and stretching an arm out to seize the importunate branch; instead of which, my fingers closed on the fingers of a little, ice-cold hand! The intense horror of nightmare came over me: I tried to draw back my arm, but the hand clung to it, and a most melancholy voice sobbed, ‘Let me in—let me in!’ ‘Who are you?’ I asked, struggling, meanwhile, to disengage myself. ‘Catherine Linton,’ it replied, shiveringly (why did I think of Linton? I had read Earnshaw twenty times for Linton) ‘I’m come home: I’d lost my way on the moor!’ As it spoke, I discerned, obscurely, a child’s face looking through the window. Terror made me cruel; and, finding it useless to attempt shaking the creature off, I pulled its wrist on to the broken pane, and rubbed it to and fro till the blood ran down and soaked the bedclothes: still it wailed, ‘Let me in!’ and maintained its tenacious gripe, almost maddening me with fear. ‘How can I!’ I said at length. ‘Let me go, if you want me to let you in!’ The fingers relaxed, I snatched mine through the hole, hurriedly piled the books up in a pyramid against it, and stopped my ears to exclude the lamentable prayer. I seemed to keep them closed above a quarter of an hour; yet, the instant I listened again, there was the doleful cry moaning on! ‘Begone!’ I shouted. ‘I’ll never let you in, not if you beg for twenty years.’ ‘It is twenty years,’ mourned the voice: ‘twenty years. I’ve been a waif for twenty years!’ Thereat began a feeble scratching outside, and the pile of books moved as if thrust forward. I tried to jump up; but could not stir a limb; and so yelled aloud, in a frenzy of fright. To my confusion, I discovered the yell was not ideal: hasty footsteps approached my chamber door; somebody pushed it open, with a vigorous hand, and a light glimmered through the squares at the top of the bed. I sat shuddering yet, and wiping the perspiration from my forehead: the intruder appeared to hesitate, and muttered to himself. At last, he said, in a half-whisper, plainly not expecting an answer, ‘Is any one here?’ I considered it best to confess my presence; for I knew Heathcliff’s accents, and feared he might search further, if I kept quiet. With this intention, I turned and opened the panels. I shall not soon forget the effect my action produced.

Heathcliff stood near the entrance, in his shirt and trousers; with a candle dripping over his fingers, and his face as white as the wall behind him. The first creak of the oak startled him like an electric shock: the light leaped from his hold to a distance of some feet, and his agitation was so extreme, that he could hardly pick it up.

‘It is only your guest, sir,’ I called out, desirous to spare him the humiliation of exposing his cowardice further. ‘I had the misfortune to scream in my sleep, owing to a frightful nightmare. I’m sorry I disturbed you.’

A ghost of Catherine Earnshaw Linton.

Mr. Lockwood heads home and falls ill. He questions the housekeeper Nelly about Heathcliff and she tells them the story:

So Mrs. Earnshaw died years ago and left the gentry Mr. Earnshaw with a son, Hindley, and daughter, Catherine. Mr. Earnshaw was very abusive and so are his children-wild-like the weather on the moors.

They are like storms

Nelly lived in the house as well, taken in by Mr. Earnshaw. One day everyone’s life changed when Mr. Earnshaw returned home with a boy! A curly-hair, dark-skin (most likely Spanish, Italian, or Russian) and raises him with the family. He hates his own son and lifts up Heathcliff. 

Nelly, Hindley, and Catherine all hate him on sight. They pinch, hurt, annoy, accuse, etc.; him-although Catherine ends up growing to like him. Soon Catherine and Heathcliff are thick as thieves and never want to spend any time apart from each other.

Mr. Earnshaw dies, and Hindley becomes the head of the household. He abuses both his sister and Heathcliff, taking no interest at all in how they are raised. Catherine is a gentry daughter, a lady, but she is actually more like a wild animal-no instruction in becoming a lady.

Hindley marries a very simple. childlike woman who dies in childbirth. He then hates his son, becomes an alcoholic, and is even more abusive.

Oh no!

Catherine and Heathcliff’s relationship is changed when one day she gets injured and taken in by the Linton family. There she learns how to pretend to be ladylike-still wild and crazy and abusive when things aren’t her way. 

Even though she loves Heathcliff she will not marry him. She will not chain herself to a man who has no family, no last name, he can’t do or become anything. She marries Edgar Linton and Heathcliff runs away. 

When he returns years later he comes to get his revenge on all-He will take Wuthering Heights and his son from the high and mighty Hindley, get revenge and hurt Edgar, and lastly-break Catherine’s heart like she broke his…

Thoughts After Reading:

So Wuthering Heights is a book about passion, not just passion but unbridled passion. All these characters do whatever feels right to them, without thinking of what may come with their actions or the price they or other will pay for their passion.

Often the Bronte’s books are compared with Jane Austen’s. Austen’s books take place more inside sitting rooms, while the Bronte’s on the moors. The Bronte’s are much darker than Austen work’s playing with similar themes but much deeper.

The term wuthering means decaying, blustery, turbulent, etc-the personalities being wuthering as much as the house, and as wild as the moors they reside.

I have always loved this book, but it was hard to read as what I had gone through with my husband. He abused me in many ways, like Heathcliff and Catherine do to each other and others. I understand how Heathcliff feels-with no last name and known family-he is essentially without a social security card and has no way of really doing anything. However, because he is hurt he then hurts others-and no matter what happened to him that behavior is never okay.

Cathy is just as abusive and very conniving. With her brother as her guardian she knows she will meet no one and grabs at Edgar to get away-bringing pain and destruction and heartbreak to him.

“Edgar Linton, as multitudes have been before, and will be after him. was infatuated: and believed himself to be the happiest man alive on the day he led her to Gimmerton Chapel…”

I know how that feels, and how it feels to discover you are 100% wrong and the person you married crazy. After the abuse I suffered from my husband I defintely do not sympathize with Heathcliff as much as I do Mr. Rochester. I too married a crazy person who tried to kill me.

It still is a good story and one I recommend reading in your lifetime.

Now a while back I reviewed The Madwoman Upstairs, by Catherine Lowell, she says that the only reason that the abusive horrible Mr. Earnshaw would adopt Heathcliff and treat him good was because he was his illegitimate son-making the reason why Catherine won’t marry Heathcliff because of incest. But I don’t believe it is true. Mr. Earnshaw “adopts” Nelly and brings her into his home. If he did that and treated her well and she is of no relation, why not Heathcliff? Plus he probably likes the savageness of Heathcliff, as it made him think of himself more than his “pansy” son.

Boom

Still a worthwhile read with so many great quotes-still a favorite no matter what, just not while I’m healing.

For more on Wuthering Heights go to,The Madwoman Upstairs

For more classic literature, go to The Sign of the Four

For more Christmas mysteries, go to The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

For more ghosts, go to Christina’s Ghost

On a sad note, given the context of this book I wanted to add this:

Are you being abused?

It’s abuse when someone who should care about you does or says things that hurt you or make you feel afraid, helpless or worthless. Here are only a few examples:

  • Slapping, hitting, punching, choking, grabbing, shoving, kicking you or your kids, your pets
  • Threatening you, your kids, friends, family or pets
  • Hitting, kicking, slamming walls, doors, furniture, possessions
  • Forcing you to have sex
  • Calling you names, swearing at you, yelling
  • Controlling all the money, even money you earn
  • Blaming you or your kids for everything
  • Putting you down, making you feel like nothing you do is ever good enough
  • Treating you like a servant or slave
  • Controlling where you go, what you do, what you wear
  • Controlling who you see, who you talk to
  • Humiliating you in front of other people
  • Refusing to let you leave the relationship

If you are in danger call 911, a local hotline, or the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224.

Wolverine Noir

Wolverine Noir (Marvel Noir Series) by Stuart Moore and C.P. Smith

Thoughts Before Reading:

This was a Christmas gift from my sister who knows my love of film noir, mysteries, private investigators, and the 1940s.

This series involves taking characters from the Marvel Universe and combining them with elements from Pulp fiction novels and film noir.

Plot Synopsis:

It is 1937 in the Bowery of New York City. Jim Logan (Wolverine) is the head of Logan & Logan Private Detective Agency with his brother Dog (Sabertooth), who is not mentally there after a horrible accident.

Logan is the best knife expert, using as many as six knives. However, he hasn’t had very much luck lately. There has been no cases coming his way.

That all changes when the beautiful Mariko Yashida walks into his office and brings a case that will bring up the past and a world of painful memories Logan hoped to never face again.

Thoughts After Reading:

It was good, but very, very dark…

For more noir, go to Archie Andrews: Not So Private Eye

For more private investigators, go to Innocent in Las Vegas

For more reviews, go to The Secret Adversary

The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

“The Blue Carbuncle” from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

It’s Christmas time in London and for Sherlock Holmes.

A priceless jewel, the blue carbuncle, has been stolen and John Horner, a former felon and current plumber, is arrested for the theft. The only issue, no jewel has been found.

Hmm…

The day after Christmas Dr. Watson visits Sherlock and finds him staring at an old hat. Commissionaire Peterson dropped it off after a scuffle made someone lose their hat and a goose. The goose had a name on it, Henry Baker, but it is so popular a name they have no clue where to find him. Peterson took the goose and Sherlock kept the hat.

Hmm…

After Sherlock relates it all to Watson, Peterson comes running in with the missing blue carbuncle.

Holmes works hard to find Henry deducing many things about him but is uncertain whether or not Henry stole the jewel. He places ads in the newspaper, and Henry Baker arrives at his doorstep. Holmes tells him that they cooked the goose and ate it. Henry doesn’t care, he accepts a replacement and goes on his way.

Hmm…

So obviously, he didn’t steal the jewel and had no knowledge that the jewel even exists. So how did it get in the goose? Holmes is on the case!

Thoughts After Reading:

I love this mystery, it is fantastic!

Check it out!

For more Sherlock Holmes, go to The Disappearance of Edwin Drood

For more from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, go to A Scandal in Bohemia

For more by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, go to The Red Headed League

For more Christmas stories, go to The Cat Who Turned On and Off

For more mysteries with stolen jewels, go to The Secret of the Three Teardrops

 

 

The Cat Who Turned On and Off

Merry Christmas! Let’s celebrate with our final Christmas Mystery!

CatWhoWroteABlog

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“Why don’t you go ahead, Qwill, and do a Christmas series on antiquing?’ ‘I hate antiques [Qwill said]…Look, Arch, I wanted to write something with guts! What can I do with antiques?” (pgs. 13-14)

Book three picks up several months after The Cat Who Ate Danish ModernQwill’s family has extended to include a a female feline friend for Koko, Yum Yum. The trio have moved out of the VV, as they were only watching Harry’s place for a month, and Qwill is currently searching for an apartment as the motel he is living in isn’t the best place for him and his animals. It is almost Christmas and Qwill is a little depressed ar his prospects as Cokey broke up with him for an engineer. Qwill now has no date for the Christmas Eve party, he is still writing about interior design, his ex’s parents are begging him…

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Chocolate Crinkles

Thoughts Before Baking:

Christmas is coming and there were three families on my list who I wanted to give a gift to and thought what better way than by baking cookies!

I thought that instead of making three dozen of one cookie, I would do three different cookies. That way I would be sure to have something everyone would love. So I decided to do the Regency Ginger Cookie, as it was sweeter than gingerbread but still a Christmas-y cookie.

Then I thought I would do the Rice Krispies Cookies, as everyone loves chocolate chip.

But the third cookie I was stumped. I decided to look in my The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion: The Essential Cookie Cookbook and settled in Chocolate Crinkles.

From the Cookbook: “This classic cookie is beautiful. With its Appaloosa coating of confectioner’s sugar, the cracks that form the surface as it bakes, makes it a miniature work of art. Nevertheless, the true reward comes in the eating. Just barely a crisp at the edges, soft and almost brownie-like in the center, these cookies are sure to make a lasting impression.

Chocolate crinkles, a seeming standard in the cookie baker’s repertoire, actually don’t appear to have a long history. Though it feels as if they have been around forever, the earliest mention we find of them in any cookbook is 1965. This cookie is quick and easy to put together, and forgiving in the oven. If you want a crispier version, bake a few extra minutes. For a fudgier center, go with a shorter baking time.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 Cups of Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1.5 Cups of Sugar
  • 1.5 Teaspoons of Baking Powder
  • 3/4 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 6 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 Cup of Cocoa Powder, natural or Dutch
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 3/4 Cup of Confectioner’s Sugar (Powdered Sugar), for coating the cookies

Directions:

  1. Preheat the Oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Lightly grease two baking sheets.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  4. Combine the melted butter with the cocoa in a medium-sized bowl and stir until the mixture is smooth. Cool to lukewarm.
  5. Once cooled, add the eggs and the vanilla-stirring to combine.
  6. Add the wet to the dry mixture. The dough will seem dry at first, but keep mixing until it becomes the consistency of stiff brownie batter.
  7. Scoop the dough by tablespoonful and roll into balls.
  8. Roll in confectioner’s sugar to coat.
  9. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets and bake for 12-14 minutes.
  10. The cookies will spread out and form cracks, the insides looking a little wet.
  11. Remove cookies from oven and cool for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack.

Thoughts After Baking:

What did I think?

You should defintely make them yourself.

For more cookies from the King Arthur Cookbook, go to 1-2-3-4 Peanut Butter Cookies

For more cookie recipes, go to REESE’S PIECES Peanut Butter Cookies

For more dessert recipes, go to Aunt Neal’s Old-Fashioned Tea Cakes

For more recipes, go to Crostini

 

The Disappearance of Edwin Drood

Ready for our next Christmas mystery?

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The Disappearance of Edwin Drood by Peter Rowland

Background:

So you might recall me reviewing the classic, unsolved mystery, The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens two years ago. This book is one author’s attempt at trying to finish the unsolved mystery.

In 1870, Charles Dickens wrote the book The Mystery of Edwin Drood which involved the disappearance of a young man Edwin Drood. Before Dickens could finish his work, he succumbed to illness and died. This created an unsolvable mystery that has driven many people crazy.

AAAAHHHHH

  • In 1870, Robert Henry Newell published his version of the story, transporting the tale to America and more a parody than anything else.
  • 1871-1872, John Jasper’s Secret: The Sequel to Charles Dicken’s Mystery of Edwin Drood, was published by Henry Morford.
  • In 1873, Thomas Jane wrote his version of the ending and was praised as the “true version” for a long period of time as many believed him when he said that he had channeled Dickens’ actual spirit in writing.

Very suspicious

  • In 1935, Universal came out with the film Mystery of Edwin Drood, starring Claude Rains as John Jasper and David Manners as Edwin Drood.
  • In 1980, The Mystery of Edwin Drood was published by Leon Garfield. In his book every loose end is wrapped up by his introduction of several new characters.
  • In 1985 the musical Drood, aka The Mystery of Edwin Drood, came out. In this the audience is able to vote on who they think the killer should be. It was revived in 2012.
  • In 1992, Peter Rowland wrote The Disappearance of Edwin Drood, in which years after the incident a very old John Jasper asks Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson to solve the case.

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  • In 1993 The D. Case or the Truth About the Mystery of Edwin Drood by Carlo Fruttero and Franco Lucentini was published with the most famous literary detectives attempting to solve the mystery. It features Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown, and more.
  • In 1993, A&E distributed the film The Mystery of Edwin Drood, starring Robert Powell as John Jasper and Jonathan Phillips as Edwin Drood.
  • In 2005, the Doctor Who episode, The Unquiet Dead, has Dickens and the Doctor fighting aliens, causing him to end the novel with the Gelth being the murderer.
  • In 2012, The Mystery of Edwin Drood: Part II, The Solution, by David Saunders was published. He believes that not only is John Jasper a red herring, but that there is another murder that has been overlooked.
  • In 2012, BBC produced a two episode mini-series that took a lot of liberties with the book in it’s portrayal. It made John Jasper secretly Edwin’s brother not uncle, and Ned & Helen the half siblings of both Edwin and John Jasper.

So we can see that lots of people try, but let’s see how Rowland did.

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Thoughts Before Reading:

I picked this book up at a library book sale as it sounded interesting. Charles Dickens meets Sherlock Holmes?

Seriously?

Sherlock Holmes solving an unsolvable mystery?

It sounded perfect, but let’s see how it turned out?

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Synopsis:

This book takes place during The Return of Sherlock Holmes, after “The Adventure of the Empty House.” Sherlock Holmes has been recalled to life after the Reichenbach Falls episode.

So Sherlock Holmes has been sent quite a bit of correspondence from a man who is searching for his missing nephew.  This man is John Jasper, the one from The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

There is one thing that is very important to look at. The Mystery of Edwin Drood came out in 1870, while The Return of Sherlock Holmes, came out in 1905, that is a 35 year difference.

Hmm…

With 35 years this means it is a “cold case” or “murder in retrospect”. But don’t worry, Holmes can handle anything with his masters of observation.

Holmes and Dr. Watson head off to meet John Jasper and hear the case. John relates what happened in the original book. Edwin “Ned” Drood was his nephew who he raised after his father and mother; and later grandparents died. Edwin was engaged to a Rosa Bud, but secretly broke off the engagement.

Hmm…

Two siblings came to live in the area, Neville and his twin sister Helena. Edwin and Neville had gotten into an argument over Rosa. They supposedly patched up over their Christmas dinner, but then Edwin and Neville took off to look at the storm.

That night Ned was never seen again. Many believed that Neville did something to him but there is no proof. Jasper cannot stand  not knowing and asks Holmes to find the body.

Holmes agrees to take the case, but notices something that will make things harder; Jasper has Alzheimer’s.

As Holmes and Watson head off to Cloisterham, only to hear that that Jasper has also disappeared. Now they have to find the missing nephew and uncle.

Holmes and Watson look into Jasper’s old home and find his diary of which he wrote of the incident that Neville and Edwin fought and his fears of what might happen next between them.

They also read about Jasper’s secret love for Rosa and that whole love triangle.

The two are invited to the Deanery for Christmas dinner, where they meet the Crisparkles. After living with the family as a ward, Mr. Crisparkle and Helena fell in love and have been married this past 30 years. Her brother ended up much unhappier. He had to leave the area as he was always seen in suspicion, Rosa refused his advances, and he died alone and unhappy.

How sad

Sherlock Holmes tracks down Mr. Grewgious, Rosa’s lawyer, and found out that Jasper is not in a home, but is residing in an asylum. He escaped to find Holmes, but has been found and put back.

They also find out that Rosa married Lt. Jack Tarter; YES! what I wanted!

Before Holmes can set out to research more on this case he has to solve “The Adventure of the Dancing Men” and “The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist”.

After those two cases, Holmes and Watson continue their investigation and discover some beautiful paintings by the painter, Edmond Dupont.

It was so obvious here what happened. Edwin took off either faking his death or didn’t realize everyone thought he was dead and changed his name to Edmond Dupont, to become a painter instead of his parent’s dream of engineer.

In the end it turned out that I was correct; Edwin became Edmound and was unaware of what happened with Neville. He later met up with Rosa after the death of her husband, and the two fell in love. I did not like that as I hated Rosa.

Ugh

Jasper had been planning on killing Edwin when he drugged the stonecutter, but Edwin took off before he put the plan into effect. His guilt and drug induced state made him think he killed Edwin and he has been feeling guilty ever since.

The mysterious stranger Datchery that everyone has wondered who he was, turned out to be a friend of the lawyer.

That’s it?

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Thoughts After Reading:

It was okay as it was a fan novel and tried to give you what he thought the fans wanted.

Giving a happy ending, no murder, certain characters together you wished; etc.

I hate it

But it was just okay. Cute, a one time read, but not more than that.

And Rosa and Edwin getting together in the end was a disappointment as I hated Rosa.

For more on Edwin Drood, go to The Unsolvable Mystery: The Mystery of Edwin Drood

For more Sherlock Holmes, go to The Red Headed League

For more altered classics, go to The Dashwood Sisters Tell All: A Modern Day Novel of Jane Austen

For more Christmas mysteries, go to A Farewell To Yarns

For more retrograde mysteries, go to A Duty to the Dead

For more missing persons mysteries, go to Emilie and the Sky World

For more not-in-a-series mysteries, go to The Undoing of Saint Silvanus

A Farewell To Yarns

It’s beginning to look like out next holiday mystery!

A Farewell to Yarns (Jane Jeffry #2) by Jill Churchill

Thoughts Before Reading:

It has been a while since we have reviewed a Jane Jeffry book. Let’s give a little background. Jane Jeffry is a widow with two sons, one daughter, a dog, and a cat. She lives in suburbia as housewife…er housemom? I’m not sure what the correct term would be. Anyways, her husband was head of the family company and she receives enough that she doesn’t have to worry about work but can focus on her children. In the previous book she was caught up in mystery when her cleaning lady was killed…only to turn out that the murderer killed the wrong woman.

What?!

As you might have guessed, all the books in the series are reworking of famous films/literature. This one is of A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway.

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Christmas is coming and Jane is extremely stressed out. Not only does she have to deal with the usual end of the year Christmas/Winter recitals and parties for her children, she is in charge of the Church Christmas Bazaar, and has to finish an afghan in only a few days.

She doesn’t need anything else to add to it, but what do you know? That’s life. It turns out Phyllis Wagner, Jane’s old friend, has finally decided to take her up on one of her halfhearted invitations to visit. Jane doesn’t really want her to visit but is stuck.

Ugh

Shelley drives her to pick Phyllis up from the airport, to give Jane time to knit her blanket, and she gets the shock of her life. Phyllis has arrived with her son! A son? When did she have a child?

It turns out that when Phyllis was in high school she ran off with a classmate and got married. The parents tracked them down and paid for an annulment, but Phyllis discovered afterwards that she was pregnant.

Her parents not wanting the child and Phyllis not believing she could take care of it, went to stay with an aunt, had the baby, and put it up for adoption. Afterwards she met Chet and married the much older, divorced father of two; them living in the same apartments as Jane and her husband.

Phyllis and Chet couldn’t have any children, and after a terrible near death experience, Phyllis revealed her secret. Chet searched for her son and found him, Bobby.

How sweet!

Bobby came to live on the island Chet set up as home and soon became a bad note in the symphony of their lives. Bobby is a major jerk, but Phyllis dotes in him and fulfills his every whim as she feels guilty for giving him up and sad about missing everything from his early life.

This is not good

Pretty soon Chet couldn’t stand another second with him and gave the ultimatum, him or Bobby. Phyllis choose Bobby and headed back to the States to visit Jane and find a place to live.

Jane is shocked about what has happened, and upset with Phyllis and Bobby. She happily leaves her home to go to Fiona Divine’s house, the widow of the famous and deceased singer Richie Divine, the one hosting the bazaar. Phyllis wants to come too and after they discuss details, Fiona relays that the house next door is for sale.

Phyllis is extremely interested and Fiona forces her second husband, Albert, to take Phyllis on a tour. By the time Jane and Phyllis head home; Phyllis is renting the house and in the process of buying it, has had one of Chet’s people purchase everything needed, and packed up all her belongings to send them to the house; vacating Jane’s home.

Yay!

Jane finds this unbelievable, but is thrilled to have the house back to the family only.

The next day, Jane receives a call from Fiona that the police are at Phyllis’ new home. Jane rushes right over and into her sometimes date/interested party Detective Mel VanDyne of the homicide division. Yes, it turns out that Phyllis was murdered.

All Jane wants to do is stay out of this, but finds herself caught up in the case. Will she figure out who the killer is before they strike again?

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Thoughts After Reading:

I did not like this book at all.

Jane was horrible and cruel to her friend; making fun of her so much that it was a terrible read. Why did she hate her so much? The was never really revealed.

The mystery’s solution was so obvious as well. As soon as the character entered the picture and Phyllis gave her backstory it was so easy to figure out and boring!

I can’t believe that Grime and Punishment was so good, and this book was an incredible stinker. It does not bode well for the next book.

For more Jane Jeffry mysteries, go to Grime and Punishment

For more Christmas mysteries, go to The Undoing of Saint Silvanus

For more mystery reviews, go to The Lesson

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The Undoing of Saint Silvanus

Are we ready for our first Christmas Countdown mystery? Let’s celebrate 20 days until Christmas with:

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus: A Novel by Beth Moore

Thoughts Before Reading:

This is Beth Moore’s first novel after years of nonfiction. It was something new, but something she had been thinking about doing for a while.

It was suggested by my sister blog after she read it for book club. It isn’t a Christmas centered mystery, but does have important scenes that take place at Christmas, so I thought I would set it out for our first review.

Jillian Slater is living in San Francisco in an controlling and very bad relationship. But when she discovers that her boyfriend is cheating on her she is hit hard and unsure of what to do.

Then she receives a call that her long estranged father is dead.

And that her grandmother, the ice queen, who she also hasn’t seen in over twenty years is offering to pay her way to New Orleans so she could attend the funeral.

As her life is currently in shambles, Jillian decides to take it.

However, there is a lot that was kept from her. It turns out that the housekeeper, Adella Atwater, came up with the idea for a family reunion, not her grandmother, Olivia.

It also turns out that she lives in an church turned boarding house-full of all kinds of characters. There is David a forty-year old bachelor and music teacher; Carrie a student in medical school and always studying or working; and an elderly dementia suffering woman.

With no money, no reason to go back to San Francisco, and not sure what to do…she remains in the house.

Meanwhile, the New Orleans Police Department have been looking into the murder of Jillian’s father, Raphael. But while they try to uncover a killer, a lot of other strange things start happening. Baby things are left outside the house, someone tries to break into the house, things go missing, etc. The NOPD spend a lot of time coming to the house trying to figure out what does this all mean? A sentiment shared by the rest of the residents.

Besides that Saint Silvanus holds a secret from its first beginning as a church. Will it be revealed?

Will Jillian ever learn the truth about her fathers death? Will she grow to enjoy living in Saint Silvanus? Will her family rifts be mended? Or torn further apart?

Through in a life changing Christmas concert and last supper, and this book has everything.

Thoughts After Reading:

I didn’t love this book.

Jillian bugged me, a LOT. First she is unsure what to do when she comes across the homeless. She has never had to deal with such things and finds the “sour smells” of the city unbearable. Come on now. I am from California and have been to San Francisco many times. I have been everywhere from the high price areas to the touristy ones and there are homeless EVERYWHERE. They hide in bushes and jump out to surprise you; walk out into traffic; are on every street corner along with “sour” smells. I don’t know what San Francisco Moore encountered but that sounds nothing like the one in California. Jillian should have experienced this numerous times and know how to deal with it.

And what happened with the church?

So throughout the novel, Moore has the story of the church’s beginning and the first pastor intersecting with the story of Jillian. But she never really says why this matters to the characters as they have no connection to each other and they never say who killed the minister. Was it suicide or murder?

There were also a lot of little details missing as Moore doesn’t always describe her characters. For instance she calls Jillian “dark”. Dark hair? Dark skin? Mexican? African-American? Greek? Spanish? Italian? Black hair? Brown? Chestnut? I know it is her first time writing a “novel” so it makes sense there are a few kinks.

The mystery also isn’t very mysterious. I knew as soon as the character entered the picture. It was extremely obvious the way they acted was not normal.

But there was something I did like: the characters.

The characters were amazing! I loved every single one and each felt extremely lifelike and ones you would meet in real life.

They all had their own hangups, issues, and backgrounds that were relatable-either to you or reminded you of someone you know. They made the book interesting, a page turner, and had you feel at home in Saint Silvanus.

This in itself made the book worth reading.

For more Christmas mysteries, go to Gingerbread Cookie Murder

For more mysteries not in a series, go to The Manchurian Candidate

For more Christian mysteries, go to Everbody Loved Roger Harlan

For more mysteries set in New Orleans, go to Triple Six

Aunt Neal’s Old-Fashioned Tea Cakes

Thoughts Before Cooking:

This recipe comes from the cookbook, Christmas Cookies. I was given this years ago for Christmas but never made anything from it.

My new resolution for Spring Cleaning, is use my cookbooks or get rid of them. So I decided to make a cookie from this, even though Christmas is eight months away.

Background on the Cookie:

“These delicious tea cakes were made by an Aunt Cornelia (“Neal) on special occasions and holidays, using hand-churned butter and eggs she gathered from the hen-house. This southern Georgia version dates back to the turn of the twentieth century. “

**Dough has to be chilled**

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup of Butter, Softened
  • 1 Cup of Granulated (White) Sugar
  • 1 Large Egg, Lightly Beaten
  • 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 3 Cups of All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 Teaspoon of Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1/2 Cup of Milk
  • White Sparkling Sugar

Directions:

  1. Beat the butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.
  2. Add one cup of sugar, beating well.
  3. Add the egg and vanilla; beat well.
  4. In a separate bowl: combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Add the flour mixture and the milk to butter mixture, alternating between the two. Begin with adding half the flour mixture, then add the milk, and finish with adding the flour mixture.
  6. Mix at a low speed after each addition, until just blended.
  7. Shape dough into two discs.
  8. Wrap the discs in wax paper and chill for at least one hour.
  9. After having chilled, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  10. Roll each disc to 1/4 inch thickness on a floured surface.
  11. Cut with a 3.5 inch round cookie cutter; and place one inch apart on lightly greased baking sheets.
  12. Sprinkle with sparkling sugar.
  13. Bake for 7-8 minutes or until lightly browned.
  14. Cool for one minute and then remove to wore racks to cool.
  15. Makes about two dozen.

Thoughts After Baking:

When I took it out of the fridge it was super hard and I was unsure if it would come out okay.

But after being in my hands it quickly became super sticky, so make sure you flour the rolling pin and the cutting board.

But after all that this cookies were super good. Not too sweet and perfect for tea time.

For more tea cakes, go to Cherry-Pistachio Tea Cakes

For more tea treats, go to Irish Apple Cake with Custard Sauce

For more cookie recipes, go to Rice Krispies Cookies

For more desserts, go to Vanilla Crackle

Gingerbread Cookie Murder

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Gingerbread Cookie Murder (Hannah Swensen #13.5) by Joanne Fluke

So I hate these Hannah Swenson holiday specials.

They are boring, predictable, and just avenues to include a ton of Christmas type recipes. But I started something, and now I am going to finish it. The review must go on.

Plot Synopsis:

It is Christmas time once again in Lake Eden. Ernie Kusak, driver, chauffeur, etc; has recently won the lottery, moved into Hannah’s condo, and started playing Christmas music incredibly loud and ALL THE TIME.

I don’t like it.

He told Hannah he would turn it down tonight, so hopefully he does.

Yay!

That night Hannah goes out with Norman, his mother Carrie, her new husband Earl, Hannah’s mother Delores, and her new boyfriend Gary Jenkins. He just moved into town, and bought Ernie’s old house.

When Hannah gets home she discovers that Ernie negated on his promise and that all the music is on and full blast.

Luckily someone has called the police, so Mike is there. Ernie’s ex-wife loans Mike her spare key to get into the house and they find Ernie’s dead body.

Who killed him? And why?

Thoughts After Reading:

So what did I think?

So what are my issues with this book?

1)Helpful Hannah

Mike questions Lorna, as we all know the wife/ex-wife usually has good motive for murder. Hannah tries to help by telling her she didn’t do it and it’s horrible to have her be accused. HELLO Hannah if you interfere with Mike’s questioning he is never going to let you in on anything. And two, you don’t know that she didn’t do it. She could be the killer.

Seriously Hannah!

2)Mike Questions Hannah as the killer

Really Mike? You think that she could be a killer. My goodness that is the dumbest thing I ever heard. Why are the deputies so stupid!

3)How does Hannah run her business?

How does Hannah make any money selling her goods at 50¢?

4)The Cops are Idiots

Now it hurts me to write this as I like police officers. My family has had them throughout and I respect them. But man they are so stupid in this book series.

The cops seem to get dumber in each book. In this one they think one man killed Ernie, but only wiped half of his fingerprints, leaving the crucial ones. Really? Smells like a frame-up

5)Fluke Knows Nothing of Cell Phones.

So Hannah discovers that Gary’s phone number was the same on the winning ticket. You know you don’t pick your number when you get a cell phone, you have one assigned. So it is pretty strange to choose “these” influential numbers that mean something, when he couldn’t do that.

6) It is All Circumstansial Evidence

And the dumbest thing to this book? How Hannah discovers the reason for murder and the guy admits it. So all the numbers on Gary’s phone number all have a certain special meaning to him. These are also the ones he chooses for the lottery ticket, the one Ernie claims is his. He has it framed and hanging on the wall, Gary spots it and kills him. Hannah figures it out and when she questions him, all Gary has to do is deny it. There is no proof he was in there, just because they use the same numbers doesn’t mean anything. It all is circumstantial. All he has to do is say he doesn’t know anything, let them prosecute the other guy and go on his way. Why would he give himself up? It’s just dumb, dumb, dumb.

For more Hannah Swensen mysteries, go to Apple Turnover Murder

For more Hannah Swenson Christmas mysteries, go to Plum Pudding Murder

For more Christmas mysteries, go to A Most Peculiar Circumstance

For book reviews, go to A Duty to the Dead