|Jill Churchill: The Merchant of Menace|
Twilight (Paperback), ISBN 0-380-79449-7
In Jane's world, anything and everything. Mel's furnace breaks, so he moves Mom in with Jane. Jane's new next-door neighbors, Billy Bob and Tiffany, inaugurate the world's gaudiest and loudest Christmas display. The same neighbor who conned Jane into the caroling party invites a muckraking TV reporter. Another neighbor, who happens to be the indispensable local handyman, refuses to attend the caroling party, because the reporter defamed his father.
Pet, a darling little girl being raised by her handsome widowed father, provides the only bright spot by keeping Jane's youngest boy occupied on the computer and out of Jane's hair. But not even Pet's best efforts can save the occasion when the reporter falls to his death off Billy Bob's roof wearing a Santa suit.
As always, Churchill handles the mystery with a deft hand. But the real strength of the series lies in Churchill's depiction of her central character, the quintessential widowed single mom. If you read cozy mysteries, chances are you'll identify with Jane's struggle to raise her kids and carry out her volunteer responsibilities. Like so many readers, Jane must fit her love life with Mel around car-pooling and grocery shopping -- not to mention homicides.
The Merchant of Menace provides a great introduction to Churchill's Jane Jeffrey mysteries. Not only does the book offer a first-rate mystery, but like Jane's cookies, you can't stop with just one.
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