Slay Bells (A Christmas Village Mystery) by T.C. Wescott
About the Book
Cozy Mystery Brand New Series
Better Mousetrap Books (November 23, 2018)
Print Length: 273 pages
Digital ASIN: B07HGG7ZFR
‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the village, the night settled in over swirling-smoke chimneys; the air was alive with pine and holly, with sugar and cinnamon and cider, by golly!Along snowy lanes and through shadows it crept, past windows behind which each villager slept, where sleeping dogs lie and cats rest a’purring—Tonight, in Christmas Village, a killer is stirring.
Welcome to Christmas Village, a magical hamlet where even in December the roses hold their luster and bees buzz among the bluebells. You’re just in time for the week-long Christmas Festival, and nowhere is Christmas celebrated with such unrestrained merriment as the village which bears its name. Mayor Cobblestone and Sheriff Fell will be somewhere nearby, doing all they can to make sure you’re safe during your stay.Provided you haven’t booked a room at Plum Cottage.
Nestled betwixt an opulent garden with meandering footpaths and an ancient grove of plum trees, Rose Willoughby’s boarding house is plum-full with lodgers. There are no vacancies, but just wait. Soon there will be one…and another…and another.Presently lodging at the cottage are: the juggler, the acrobat, the magician, the psychic, the strongman, the manager, and the pretty assistant. In town as festival entertainment they’ve each brought their own bag of tricks. And a closetful of skeletons.When the entertainers begin dying in inexplicable ways, some villagers believe a beast from old village lore is the culprit. The sheriff knows better, but he’s just as helpless to catch the invisible killer as are the town folk with their eyes to the sky in search of a flying creature. But our mysterious murderer hasn’t counted on yet another lodger coming to the cottage: Maribel Claus.
Short as a stump, round as a wheel, sweet as a candy cane, and a sharp as a whip, Maribel loves a good puzzle. But has she finally met her match at Plum Cottage?Can you figure out whodunit before Maribel does? If you’re up to the challenge, here’s your first clue—the key to unlocking the secret of the murderer’s identity lies in figuring out how the murders were committed. Good luck!
A Brief Tour of Plum Cottage in the Village of Christmas –
by Maribel Claus
by Maribel Claus
Hello and welcome to my little corner of the world. My name is Maribel Claus and I’ve called Christmas Village home for every moment of my many years. If you have a few minutes to spare, I’d like to show you around. I can’t take you through the entire village as that would consume many hours if not days and I’m not as young as I once was. Instead, I thought I might show you around the property of Plum Cottage, where much of the action in Slay Bells: A Christmas Village Mystery takes place.
Plum Cottage is both the home and business of one of my oldest friends, Rose Willoughby. A spinster, if you’ll forgive the term (I’m not sure she will!), Rose lives alone at Plum Cottage but seldom finds herself lonely as lodgers and friends are forever coming in and out her doors. I’m often to be found there as well, baking with her in the kitchen or enjoying a warm tea by the cozy fire in her parlor. There’s even a games table for when we feel like a round of cards or, on a stormy night, a game of Clue. Always helps to keep one’s mind sharp!
As you enter the front door of the cottage you’ll find the kitchen to your right and the parlor to your left. A hallway off the parlor and behind the stairs leads to the bathing rooms and two rooms let to lodgers. The first room on this level is my preferred room when I stay over with Rose. The stairs lead up to the second and third floors. Rose’s room is on the third floor. The ways are lit with wall sconces fueled by gas that cast too many shadows for the liking of some, particularly when murder might be lurking around the corner, as it does this Christmas season.
It’s the week of the grand Christmas Festival and Rose’s lodging house has been booked by a troupe of traveling performers. But someone among them is not who they seem. Let’s step outside and see the location of the first tragedy.
Exiting the front door, you’ll walk down the steps and find yourself on a paved walkway that ends in a fork; if you go right you’ll find yourself in a small parking lot next to Cinnamon Street which will take us to Celebration Park. If you turn left you’ll find the pavement turning into a pea shingle path that meanders through Rose’s year-round garden. Occasional gas lamps mark the location of benches where one might rest and better appreciate the fantastical array of blossoms that Rose and her mother before her cultivated for the betterment of our village. But we’ve veered off the path. There’s been no murder here. However, if you travel beyond the garden you’ll find a shed used to house tools for maintenance and, when necessary, large baggage items belonging to lodgers. A very important piece of action occurs in and around this shed. I can’t provide any particulars, but suffice it say, Sheriff Fell came to rue the absence of any windows or ventilation in the small, rickety shack.
We must avoid the temptation of losing ourselves in the blooms and blossoms as we return through the garden to our next destination, which is a utilitarian pathway running just behind the cottage and past an attached, unwalled storage area. Here there are boxes belonging to the lodgers that may play a part in the murders. Nearby, just to our right, we see rising from the earth a monolith of snow known locally as Plum Hill. Shaded by nearby palm trees on one side and Plum Cottage on the other, the origin of the hill is unknown, but for years it has served the youth of Christmas Village as a prime spot for sledding. In Slay Bells it serves as the scene of the first murder.
A man was found murdered atop the 12-foot high hill without footprints or any other marks leading to or from the body. Some of my fellow villagers felt sure a monstrous creature of village lore was responsible, but I knew better. However, penetrating the mystery of how a man could be murdered without stepping foot in the snow was not an easy matter! Adding to the confusion was the manner in which our second victim was felled.
Walking out to Cinnamon Street and strolling along the fragrant lane, our noses alive with pine, holly, and all the aromas of Christmas, we come to Celebration Park, a spacious green rendered white with the recently fallen snow. On the other side of this park is the town’s main square, so it’s a natural place for us to cross if we wish to take part in the week-long Christmas Festival. On a dark night one of Rose’s lodgers was returning to Plum Cottage this way but made it only halfway across the park. The body was found face-up in the snow with only the victim’s shoe prints found in the snow leading up to the body. Leading away from the body was a certain size of men’s shoe, presumably the killer’s. For some villagers, this served to confirm their suspicion that a monstrous bird was prowling the skies, but I saw only desperation in the deceitful murder. And with the help of my two feisty ferrets—Dancer and Prancer—I soon had the revelation that would allow me to penetrate the cloak of darkness thrown up by the fiendish ghoul stalking our peaceful village and resolve not only how the two miraculous murders were pulled off, but by whom.
There’s much more of the village left to show you, not the least of which are the many attractions of our annual festival. Please join Rose and myself in the kitchen of Plum Cottage for a king’s helping of mirth, merriment, and murder most cozy!
When her friend Rose, whose inn is hosting several acrobatic and unusual performers, needs help preparing for the annual Christmas festival, Maribel Claus is the first to jump in and help. Her sense of helpfulness also has a tendency to mean sticking her nose into other people`s business too.
That includes the local sheriff whose job typically does not cover murder investigations.
With a strange yet likable cast of characters, some of whom have far fetched beliefs, the show must go on even during an investigation. Holiday tourists want their tarts! Active performers work up an appetite for dinner and mystery resolution.
Different from many cozy or holiday novels, this still keeps you interested in what could possibly happen next.
About the Author
T.C. Wescott was born in Missouri but has lived in Oklahoma most of his life.
Like pretty much every author who has ever breathed, he is an avid reader. His favorites are classic mysteries from the Golden Age, as well as just before or just after that period (which is widely considered the period between the two World Wars).
His first mystery novel, Running from Scissors, was published in July 2018 and will be the first of at least three books in the Running Store Mystery series.
The Christmas Village Mystery series will launch in November of the same year with the debut title Slay Bells. The formula for his books is simple - mixing the classic, traditional detective fiction standards with all the trappings of the modern cozy mystery.
Wescott is also (under another name) the author of two award-winning non-fiction books as well as a slew of essays and articles.
Purchase Link - Amazon
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