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Friday, December 5, 2008

A Holly, Jolly Murder (A Claire Malloy Mystery) A Holly, Jolly Murder by Joan Hess

My review

Rating: 1 of 5 stars
Very disappointing addition to the Claire Malloy series. A Holly, Jolly Murder has been tagged as a "Holiday Themed" book. Only by stretching the imagination to its very outer limits would I categorize it that way. Merely because Hess mentions Christmas or Santa Claus now and then doesn't make this book anywhere near being about the holidays. It's about Druids and Satan-Worship and Wiccans... if that dredges up sweet memories of Christmases past for some readers, fine. It certainly did not do that for me.

But it isn't just the lack of material that supposedly defines this book as a holiday mystery. It's also that the whole story from beginning to end is terribly contrived. What humor there is, and that's sparse, is forced. What used to pass for Hess' wit comes across in this book as artificial and affected. I've read other Claire Malloy books. I've seen how good Hess can be when she's at the top of her game. This book simply doesn't have even a remnant of that creativity. It's like Hess wrote this one because someone was threatening to pry off her fingernails slowly and painstakingly, so she wrote anything to avoid being unable to wear nail polish for a while.

The plot to this mess concerns a group of people with mixed spiritual beliefs. Some are Druids, some Wiccans, and some Satanic followers. One of the group is murdered, and for no reason that makes any sense whatsoever, Claire Malloy gets involved in the trials and tribulations of the members left alive.

Meanwhile, Claire's daughter, Caron, is involved in some trouble of her own. This turns out to be a minor, somewhat annoying, distraction from the real mess of the book which is who killed the victim. Getting deeper and deeper into that part of the story only serves to muddle the plot further, and if I weren't absolutely anal about having to finish books I start to read, I'd have hurled this one at my favorite spot on the wall and forgot about it.

Word to the Wise: Skip this one and find something far more interesting and better constructed to read than A Holly, Jolly Murder... like maybe your cereal box.

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