With Christmas only two weeks away, I thought I'd share with you my take on four currently available books that celebrate the holiday season in vastly different ways.
Fans of Jan Karon's Mitford series may recognize the work of Miss Read (the pen name of retired English schoolteacher Dora Saint). Miss Read's gentle stories of life in rural England filled 30 books over a period of 40 years. The 174 page CHRISTMAS TALES contains two novellas, Village Christmas and The Christmas Mouse. Village Christmas tells the story of the elderly Waters sisters and their initial difficulty accepting the Emery family as new neighbors in the little village of Fairacre. The two households are brought together in an unexpected way, though, on Christmas Day, changing forever the lives of both the Waters sisters and the Emerys. Mrs. Berry of Caxley village faces her own holiday dilemma in The Christmas Mouse when she awakes on Christmas Eve to find two intruders in her home. The first is a mouse. The second is a runaway boy. Both have come seeking refuge from a winter storm, and both are dealt with by Mrs. Berry in the true spirit of the holiday season. For heart warming stories of Christmas good will, I highly recommend Miss Read's CHRISTMAS TALES.
David Morrell's thrillers have been winning over fans since 1972 when FIRST BLOOD, his first Rambo novel, was released. In THE SPY WHO CAME FOR CHRISTMAS, Morrell once again tackles the gritty side of life, this time on Christmas Eve in the festive city of Santa Fe. A wounded Agent Paul Kagan blows his cover with the Russian mafia to save the life of an infant who may one day bring peace to his troubled homeland. With only the falling snow to cover his tracks, Kagan has little hope of escaping his pursuers -- until he stumbles into the home of an abused woman and her young son whose combined courage is equal to his own strength of purpose. This is a different kind of Christmas tale, one that echoes later scenes from the original Christmas story while also drawing on the eternal theme of redemption and self-sacrifice. Only a storyteller as accomplished as Morrell could blend past with present to create a bone-chilling yet heart-warming story like the one presented here. Well worth reading.
For those who prefer fantasy over spy stories or tales from the English countryside for their Christmas reading pleasure, I highly recommend Terry Pratchett's HOGFATHER. Pratchett's Discworld series has sold in the millions all over the world, making him one of England's bestselling authors of fantasy and satire. The Hogfather is Discworld's version of Santa Claus, and when he goes missing on Hogswatchnight, it's up to Death, in all his bony weirdness, to fill in as the red-suited, white-bearded, sleigh-driving giver of gifts to children. Death (WHO SPEAKS ONLY IN CAPITAL LETTERS) is aided by his manservant Albert, a former wizard who gained near immortality ("near" because he still has 34 seconds of life left in his hourglass life-timer, although the sand doesn't flow as long as he stays put in Death's domain) while Archchancellor of the city of Ankh-Morpork's Unseen University. It's Albert's job to teach Death how to "ho, ho, ho" in a way that doesn't frighten the pants off the little kiddies of the world. Other characters include Susan Sto-Helit, Death's granddaughter (don't ask how this can be; just read the book!); Mister Teatime of the Guild of Assassins (a bad guy, for sure); Ridcully, current Archchancellor of UU whose only Hogswatch wish is for his own personal bathroom (he hates sharing with other wizards); Ponder Stibbons, a young wizard whose greatest triumph has been engineering the building of HEX, a "thinking" machine (think computer); and Foul Ole Ron, Coffin Henry, and the Duck Man, three of Ankh-Morpork more colorful beggars (who are even too poor to belong to the Beggars Guild). And one mustn't forget the Auditors, a ghostly gray group of beings who despise individuality and are at the heart of the mystery surrounding the Hogfather's disappearance. This is a story of the power of belief and what happens to people when beliefs (some will call them myths) are derided as irrational and implausible fantasies. Pratchett has fun with his Discworld, but he's not at all adverse to pointing out mankind's failings while doing so. As Death said when the king gave the beggars a banquet on Hogswatchnight, "DID THAT MAKE YOU FEEL ALL WARM INSIDE? WHERE WERE YOU ALL THE OTHER NIGHTS OF THE YEAR?" Oh yeah, Pratchett will nudge your conscience even while he's tickling your funnybone. If you think you can take it, read the book. :)
Lastly, may I present A MERRY LITTLE MURDER, the first book in my "Rhodes to Murder" mystery series newly released this month as a mass market paperback by Worldwide, a division of Harlequin.
ER nurse Caroline Rhodes becomes a suspect in a case of multiple murder when she survives a bombing on the psychiatric ward at St. Anne's Hospital. Who could be so evil as to use the trimmings of Christmas to kill six patients and a young student nurse? And why do the police automatically view Caroline with suspicion? Is it something in her past that's drawn their attention, or is it just because she's a newcomer to the little university town of Rhineburg, Illinois? Caroline enlists the help of Professor Carl Atwater to dig into the lives of the seven victims and help her clear her name. What they discover is a tale of scandal and greed rooted in an unholy alliance made many years before.
Caroline may have dug up proof of the killer's identity, but with the murderer hard on her heels, surviving long enough to expose the truth may take a Christmas miracle.
As you'll notice, there are two covers shown here for A MERRY LITTLE MURDER. The cover pictured above belongs to the Worldwide edition of the book. The cover to the left belongs to the earlier trade paperback and e-book edition.
To learn how I discovered the perfect weapon to use in A MERRY LITTLE MURDER, plus find information on ordering the Worldwide edition of the book, please visit Harlequin's Reader Service webpage at http://simplybooksextra.readerservice.com/simplybooksextra/2012/11/how-mary-v-welk-discovered-the-perfect-murder-weapon/
To order the e-book or trade paperback edition of the book, please visit www.amazon.com/author/marywelk
HAPPY HOLIDAY READING TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!!!