It’s our final Murderous Monday for the year, so I thought I’d go for something a bit festive and knock a book off my TBR at the same time. Thus, I present to you Twelve Drummers Drumming, the first in the Father Christmas Mysteries series by C.C. Benison. I’ve had my eye on this series for a while so when I found that the local library had it I pounced. I won’t bore you with the exciting and eventful tale of how I searched for it on the “holds” shelf, wrangled it to the checkout machine and watched with anticipation as the machine went “bing!” and the screen display confirmed that I had indeed checked the book out correctly, thrilling though the tale undoubtedly is. Let’s just get on with things, starting with the blurb from Goodreads:
The Reverend Tom “Father” Christmas, the newest vicar of Thornford Regis, an idyllic rural town in England, turns detective when one of his parishioners turns up dead in a drum, and everyone in town seems to have something to confess. Tom Christmas came to picturesque Thornford Regis with his young daughter to escape the terrible experience of losing his wife in the city. Her murder sent him packing to the bucolic and charming town, where violent crime isn’t supposed to happen and the greatest sin is supposed to be nothing a member of the clergy can’t handle. Then, at the town fair, a woman is found murdered. Tom soon learns that everyone in Thornford Regis has a secret to hide–infidelity, theft, even past murders.
After the murder of his wife, vicar Tom Christmas moves to the quiet village of Thornford Regis with his daughter Miranda, to pursue the simple life and be closer to his late wife’s sister and husband. At the village fete, Tom, along with some other village folk, discover the body of young Sybella Parry concealed inside a large Japanese drum that was to be used for the village drumming group’s performance at the fete. Although it was generally acknowledged that Sybella had been a bit of a wild child, nobody could believe that anyone would want her dead – surely this tragedy must have something to do with Sybella’s past involvement in drugs and debauchery. But Tom isn’t so sure – and after having suffered a terrible loss of own, he is afraid that Thornford Regis isn’t quite the country idyll he was hoping for. It’s up to Tom to catch the killer and prove that his treechange was the right thing to do.
The Usual Suspects:
They’re all here! A retired Colonel who hates the Japanese for the atrocities visited on him as a POW in World War II, a mysterious and not-very-forthcoming verger who has all the makings of a sinister hidden past, the ex-pop-star father of the deceased, the prior vicar of Thornford Regis who is currently MIA, a very cranky café owner who has spent time on the inside and a bunch of other interlopers that may or may not have had a motive to dispose of a young but manipulative member of the village.
The Hunt for the Murderer/s:
This was very well done indeed and while the recommendation on the book cover – “a crime novel that Agatha Christie may have been justly proud to claim as her own” – might be overstating the case just a bit, this book can definitely hold its own against the vast ocean of cosy mysteries set in idyllic English villages. The hunt is complicated enough that it would be very difficult to identify the murderer/s too early on, but not so complex that it becomes hard to follow. There were a few bits that didn’t quite satisfy me – anyone who has read any amount of crime fiction before will twig straight away as to why a quilt goes missing from an exhibition, and Tom’s trust that the murderer/s will present him/her/themselves to police beggars belief, particularly from someone whose wife was a murder victim – but overall this is a well-executed and nicely layered mystery that should draw in readers and have them guessing along with Tom throughout.
Four poison bottles for the steady beat of a heart broken by grave misfortune.
I thoroughly enjoyed this offering and will definitely be placing the rest of this series on my TBR list. Tom Christmas is a very likeable fellow and the residents of Thornford Regis are a nice balance of the quirky and the reliable – just what one would expect from a countryside murder mystery setting. I was utterly surprised when I discovered that the author was not British, because there is very little in the writing to suggest that this is an author working outside of their country of origin. The only tiny twinge I noted was the use of the word “fall” for autumn – something that jarred me just a little – but otherwise this reads exactly how I would expect a novel set in England and written by a native Englishperson to read, so well done C. C. Benison!
This is definitely a great pick for a Christmassy fireside read or a Christmassy beach read depending on where on the globe you happen to pitch your reading tent.
*Bruce just knocked another book off Mount TBR!*
Until next time,