Mistletoe and Murder – S.L. Smith

(Reviewed by Don Jung)

Mistletoe and Murder is the fourth installment in the detective Pete Culnane series. The story starts out with a New Year’s Eve wedding reception in the historic Saint Paul Union Depot in Minneapolis where the matriarch, Collette Hammond, suddenly collapses and dies right before the stroke of midnight.

As detective Martin Tierney and partner Pete Culnane try to unravel the bizarre events leading up to the tragedy, they have to confront the bitter cold winter snow in the Twin Cities and find the witnesses that can lead to the killer.

The victim owned a book publishing business and we learn about the inner workings of that industry through the detectives’ interviewing all the employees and former employees who worked there. We also find that she had a circle of friends who knew very little of her company but knew her personally and had been with her through her battle with pain killers and heroin.

As the detectives try to interrogate the restaurant workers and the various wedding reception guests, we get drawn into a very complex woman who had separated her personal life from her business. They must try to patch up the various clues to figure out why someone would want to kill her and why at such an inappropriate time, just before the New Year was to start.

Each character gives a clue as to what happened that fateful night, but the book keeps you intrigued as you try to piece each part of the puzzle together. Even though the story comes to a satisfactory conclusion, I personally would have preferred a different ending. That said, the diverse characters are a major reason that I recommend the book.

Another reason I particularly enjoyed Mistletoe and Murder is that I got an insight into the life of policemen who have had to forsake family in order to do their job during a holiday period. You discover the heartaches and sacrifices that have been made and yet they manage to keep their sanity.

Fans of crime fiction will enjoy this novel.

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