A Christmas Peril – J. A. Hennrikus

I had a feeling I was going to like this when the main character talks about “the traditional pantyhose dance”. I love that.

The feeling was enhanced by the fact that a secondary character suddenly popped up who had my exact name – just first as last and vice versa (and my first name spelled “wrong”). I have never seen that before. It was also fun when that character, Stewart, engaged in a Shakespeare quote battle with another fellow named Patrick; Patrick and Stewart and Shakespeare all in the same sentence is just fun.

“…Something darted out—probably a coyote … ”
“Probably a dog.”
“Whose story is this? Anyway, I veered to avoid the werewolf…”

I’m often very hard on cozy mysteries, but this has all the essential ingredients, blended to excellent effect. The main character has a good and solid foundation for involving herself in any mysteries that come her way: she was a cop. And I loved the fact that the reason her cop-hood is in the past tense is that she was basically … encouraged very strongly to resign, as I recall. She wasn’t a model police officer, nor a model wife or daughter or friend or overall human being – but her faults and failings never make her obnoxious. She’s not sympathetic, on the whole – but she is interesting, and often funny, and her self-awareness makes her a really good protagonist.

It’s not a perfect story. But it’s more than enjoyable enough that it doesn’t matter. I’ve said it before, and as long as I keep reading cozy mysteries I’m sure I’ll say it again: the plot is possibly the least important part of a cozy. If an author can sell me on a three-dimensional, five-sensate (is that a thing? It should be) setting, on well-rounded characters I’m happy to spend a few hours with and will look forward to meeting again, and on sharp and clever writing that is not over-reliant on puns – then I honestly don’t much care whodunit or why. Don’t get me wrong – there had better be an at least halfway decent plot – but if the rest of it has lulled me into a state of complacency, I’m much less likely to complain about anything else.

And the writing here is sharp and clever. “Leftover summer detriment, suntan lotion and gardening hats” – what a great, concise snapshot. It was good enough to overcome multiple issues with editing which I sincerely hope aren’t going unnoticed by people who can fix them. Y’know, it worries me a little that the Netgalley emails often remind us “don’t worry! This is an ARC! All those little grammar and spelling and punctuation things you people love to nitpick about will be fixed before the book’s published!” Well, I hope so. I wouldn’t want to see something about “breeching confidentiality” in the finished book, or about something peaking instead of peeking. Or pronoun abuse. Or apostrophe abuse. Et cetera.

Because this was a really fun book. And for once I look forward to reading a lot more.

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.

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