The Merchant of Menace
By Jill Churchill
(Avon, Mass Market Paperback, 9780380794492, 256pp.)
Publication Date: October 8, 1999
List Price: $6.99*
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It's beginning to look a lot like murder
'Tis the season to jolly and suburban mom Jane Jeffry's in a mad scramble to finish her cookie baking and household chores before her teenage kids arrive home. Also expected are two moms-both the late husband's mother and the disapproving mater of Det. Mel VanDyne, Jane's significant other. The kitchen is a disaster zone, the dog has decorated the house with hair, and the earsplitting racket coming from the neighbors tacky, music-making Christmas display is driving Jane crazy. Now she has to get the green icing out of her hair and be ready to host her post-caroling dinner party.
One thing Jane isn't ready for is a surprise visit from a muckraking TV "action reporter," disguised as Santa Claus. The nasty old St. Nick is out to wrap a happy holiday caroling into a package marked "scandal," but before he has a chance to color the event with yellow journalism, his red-suited body slides off the neighbor's roof to land, silenced forever, on the horns of a plastic reindeer. It looks like Santa's mishap is no accident and, with the help of her friend Shelley, Jane finds plenty of suspects. The phony Santa has an ex-wife and a female assistant who both hate him, and plenty of nice people ruined by tales of naughtiness. Now Jane has to find the Grinch who thought murder was a way to save Christmas before the holiday turns into the unhappiest day of the year.
Jill Churchill has won the Agatha and Macavity Mystery Readers awards and was nominated for an Anthony Award for her bestselling Jane Jeffry series. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed Grace and Favor mysteries and lives in the Midwest.