Author: Joyce and Jim Lavene
Series: A Christmas Tree Valley Mystery #1
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: J. Lavene
Description: Down the mountain from Sweet Pepper, Tennessee is Christmas Tree Valley, a place filled with hundreds of Christmas tree farms where generations of growers have made people’s lives brighter. Yet even here in this quiet, postcard-perfect corner of the world, darkness and murder can still stalk the night.
Federal Wildlife Agent Bonnie Tuttle has always had a special gift with wild animals. It was one of the reasons she decided to train with the wildlife agency. She’s spent the last ten years in Alabama working, but her mother needs her home and she’s back despite all the bad parts of her life she hoped to leave behind.
Her first day home begins with a fire on the island in Sweet Pepper Lake and the death of Harvey Shelton, the wildlife agent she’s supposed to replace. Bonnie manages to rescue dozens of animals from the fire – including a wolf pup that was shot with the same bullet that killed Harvey.
Now she’s hot on the trail of Harvey’s killer and trying to reintegrate the wolf back into the wild even though he seems to want to stay with her. Yet old memories persist in the small community where she grew up, and the killer now seems to believe that she has what he killed Harvey for. All she has to do is figure out what that is before it’s too late.
This is the first in a new series by prolific cozy mystery authors Joyce and Jim Lavene. Anyone who is a fan of this writing duo know that anytime they pick up one of their stories they will not be disappointed. Murder Fir Christmas is no exception. This particular book is a little bittersweet for fans of the writing duo since Joyce Lavene passed before it was released.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story. If you are a fan of the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Series written under the duo's pen name J.J. Cook, you will find that there are some old friends as well as some new. Don't worry if you are not familiar with the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade series, it will not impact your enjoyment of this book in the least. As with all of their books, this one grabs the reader’s attention from the very first pages and keeps you engaged until the end. The characters are excellently written, well developed and full of warmth and heart. The characters, both old and new, are blended well into this story.
The story has a good pace and moves along nicely without any lulls. As with all stories by these authors, the mystery is a strong solid mystery that has some twists, turns and a few surprises. For me the identity of culprit was not obvious. With the number of cozy mysteries I read you would think I would get better at guessing the identity of the killer before the end of the book. However, the draw, for me, of a Joyce and Jim Lavene book is that I get so lost in the story, the setting and the characters that it is just as much about the journey the characters take as it is about solving the mystery. If you are a fan of this writing duo, do not hesitate to read this story. You will find a terrific first installment to a new series that has plenty of promise.