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on September 11, 2012
Murder mysteries are getting a lot more interesting. They have always offered up corpses and eccentric characters. But they are now offering literary conceits of clashing philosophies. Think Matthew Pearl.

Christopher Lord's first novel (The Christmas Carol Murders) offers some of the same literary devices -- to good effect.

The Christmas Carol Murders is based in the fictional Oregon village of Dickens Junction. A community founded on the charitable principles of Charles Dickens.

Just as the community is preparing for its annual Christmas celebration of Dickens's tale of Christian charity, a stranger shows up causing tension in the village. Within hours, he is the first victim of a serial killer.

The stranger turns out to be the agent of a corporation based on Objectivism -- the philosophy propounded by novelist Ayn Rand. And, of course, there will be no room for Charles Dickens in the world if Objectivism -- where charity is considered to be a vice.

Local bookstore owner Simon Alastair sets out to solve the murders while trying to discover why Objectivists have targeted his quaint village. Pitted against him is Dagny Clack, the CEO of a corporation based on Objectivism.

Setting up a slap down between Charles Dickens and Ayn Rand is a natural choice. Their life philosophies are poles apart. Even though I suspect there are as many people who admire Rand's paean to individualism, but reject her atheistic self-centered philosophy as there are people who admire Dickens's sentimentality, but reject the Christian foundation of his philosophy.

But, this is a murder mystery. And, even though, the Dickens-Rand philosophical spat is extremely one-sided, the future of Dickens Junction drives a tale that keeps the reader's attention chapter after chapter. And with just enough misdirection to make the novel's climax interesting.

Lord has an interesting layered writing style. The story line is obviously designed to be a story unfolding in the world we inhabit. But, it easily could be a Cartesian construct taking place only in Simon Alastair's mind.

Either way, it is a good read.
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on November 15, 2012
I liked the premise of this one, a town founded on the charitable principles of author, Charles Dickens. All the businesses around Dickens Junction, Oregon, are named after Dickens characters and the major events in town are based upon Dickens books. So, just before the Christmas Carol tableaux is held, a recent arrival in town is found murdered followed by another murder but this time of a local townsperson and then one more murder occurs. Yikes! Enough already!

What could possibly be the motive? The only thing the reader knows is that the first victim is an employee of Marley Enterprises and that he has been trying to tempt local businesses into selling their property for huge sums of money. Is the reader to surmise being paid more than a property is worth could possibly incite murderous instincts? It seems so because no other motives were apparent. No hints of any kind were presented and no credible suspects were visible. Never mind the reason and ridiculous manner of death for the second victim.

Hmmmm . .....

As a cozy aficionado, this is not acceptable. I prefer the author to play fair with the reader and offer up several motives and or suspects and then develop the plot from there. In the final Agatha Christie-like denouement, the main character, local bookstore owner, Simon, gathers the town inhabitants and unmasks the murderer after his own investigation. No one could possibly have guessed who this was nor did the author present any hints as to the reason why this happened until the finale. Not, so not a fan of the killer coming out of left field with motives not even previously hinted at!

The plot thread of objectivism and repeated references to Ayn Rand's philosophy as opposed to Dickens's philosophy left me feeling that the author was trying to be too clever for his own good. In my humble opinion, the author's time would have been better spent with developing more of the mystery plot with less emphasis on gay romance and contrasting beliefs.

Sorry, but this one earns a solid 2* from me.

Disclosure: A review copy of the book was provided by MindBuck Media in exchange for my honest opinion.
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on December 3, 2012
You had me a Christmas murder mystery. I've been reading them (and collecting them) for 30 years, since I was in high school. I was not sure what to expect, but I found an interesting story in a unique town populated with characters that I want to visit with again.

The book was a nice mix of old fashioned values, acceptance of those around us and a mystery that I was not able to figure out until the very end.

If you like mystery series in a small town full of interesting characters full of potential, you can not go wrong.
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on November 1, 2012
Dickens Junction is a town near Astoria, Oregon, dedicated to the spirit of the author after whom it was named. So Bleak House is a popular bed-and-breakfast. Micawber's Investments went under in the recent financial crisis. The town's economy at least partly depends upon its appeal to tourists.

Simon Alastair is the somewhat wealthy scion of the founders of the town. He's also the gay owner of Pip's Pages, a bookstore stocked only with books he's read and can therefore recommend to his customers. When I learned that his last two partners left him to live in a larger metropolitan area, I could only think what fools they must've been. I would've remained a Junxonian.

On the day deep in the holiday season when the residents of the town present their annual tableaux in Dickens Square depicting various scenes from A Christmas Carol, two strangers show up. One is Zach Benjamin, a "model-handsome" reporter for Rainbows, a monthly gay and lesbian travel magazine, on an assignment to write a story about the charms of Dickens Junction.

When Simon asks him to stay at his house, Gad's Hill Place, his friends, the town's leading citizens, soon wonder if Simon and Zach are lovers. Simon is reluctant, though, to begin a relationship only to have the lure of big-city life end it once again and leave him alone with his hurt.

The other newcomer is the sinister Mervin Roark of Marley Enterprises. He goes about offering extravagant sums of money to all the owners of the Dickens Square commercial properties except Simon. If they should refuse to sell, he hints, Marley Enterprises will ruin them. Simon and his friends can't help but wonder if somebody wishes to take over the town and destroy it and their quaintly Dickensian way of life.

When, that same day, the murders begin, Zach convinces Simon he must discover who is committing them. Simon knows the townspeople better than the sheriff's investigator does. He also has the most to lose if the villain in this story bulldozes Dickens Junction and replaces it with something radically different.

I greatly enjoyed reading this cozy mystery pitting "Atlas Shrugged versus A Christmas Carol. Rand versus Dickens. Buyers versus sellers. Community versus selfishness."

The Christmas Carol Murders is Christopher Lord's first novel in a series of Dickens Junction mysteries. I'll rush to read his second. I'd like to return to Dickens Junction as soon as Mr. Lord makes it possible for me to do so. The next witty conversation involving the exquisitely tasteful Simon, Zach, and Simon's friend George Bascomb will alone be worth the price of admission.

(As originally reviewed on Rainbow Book Reviews. Please visit the site for other reviews that may be of interest.)
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on October 8, 2012
Mr. Lord's first book, an Agatha Christie like mystery, is a good read that left me wanting to read more - more Lord, more Dickens, and more Ayn Rand. The story is a "closed room" mystery with a limited number of suspects and plenty of clues. The ending came as a surprise to me, but, then, I have never been good at predicting the solution. By the end of the book, however, I had enough interest in the characters to want to read the next novel in the series to find out what happens to them next.

In addition to the story and the characters, there are many allusions to both Charles Dickens and Ayn Rand. Now I will have to read some of them to more fully understand the plot and some of the characters.
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on November 14, 2012
The delightful residents of Dickens Junction will entertain you and leave you wanting more! A clever plot line, eccentric characters, convincing dialog, exquisite detail and well-placed humor make 'The Christmas Carol Murders' a delicious read. I was captivated from the opening line: "No one was dead: to begin with." This first novel of Christopher Lord is for book lovers of all kinds, not just "cozy" fans. The gold thread of Dickens 'vs' Rand running through the center of the plot was an unexpected treat. This book was hard to put down!

So...book your stay at Mavis Spurlock's Bleak House Bed and Breakfast. Browse through Simon Alastair's excellent book selections at Pip's Pages and pick out a tome or two to take with you to read while you enjoy refreshment at Viola's Crystal Palace Tea Room. Perhaps George will stop by for a chat (if you are lucky). Don't let a little murder or two put you off! I'm sure Simon and Detective Boggs will have everything under control by the time you get there. Or maybe not...
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on October 4, 2012
Just finished reading "The Christmas Carol Murders" by Christopher Lord. I was VERY pleasantly entertained with this delightful mystery set in my home state and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good "whodunit"! I loved the colorful and detailed descriptions of people, places and things, finding it so easy to create a visual image in my mind as I read along. Congrats to the author for his first novel and I look forward to reading the next in this series!
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on September 4, 2014
I love reading cozy mysteries. I especially love reading books where the main character owns a book store. So with that going for it, I started reading The Christmas Carol Murders. I liked the concept of a town devoted to Dickens, and trying to preserve their way of life. The book had lots of quirky characters, and I enjoyed Simon and his relationship with his new boyfriend, Zach.

Unfortunately for me, this book didn't have the "cozy" feel I was hoping for. It is hard to put my finger on it exactly. Maybe the deaths were a little too gruesome and well planned, I don't know. This book seems half way between a cozy mystery and a regular mystery thriller book. It was pretty good, and I will probably read the next in the series, if only to see if I like it better.
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on February 12, 2014
I enjoyed the humor in the story. I liked the unconventional aspects - homosexual Simon as protagonist finding a love interest while solving the murder... the idea of a town founded and centered around a great author was interesting, although Simon's narrow-minded business running of his book store, only selling books he read and enjoyed, was unsettling to put it mildly. Made me think of the story "1984" in that respect.

I also felt the story contained many, many dry aspects where I struggled to keep reading through them. The ending is what really turned me off this story. Where were the clues so that I could try solving the case? To wait and toss the clues in at the very end is unfair to the reader and really takes away from any enjoyment the humor had instilled. I doubt I'll read anymore from the author....
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on December 20, 2012
A gay protagonist detective sorting out a series of murders in a small village torn between Dickensian community and Ayn Rand's celebration of selfishness: an allegorical murder mystery and perfect Christmas fare.
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