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Christmas is Murder (A Rex Graves Mystery) [Paperback]

C.S. Challinor
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 8, 2008 A Rex Graves Mystery (Book 1)
Christmas in the English countryside -- what could be more charming? Not even a blizzard can keep Rex Graves away from Swanmere Manor, a historic hotel in East Sussex. But instead of Christmas cheer, the red-haired Scottish barrister finds a dead guest. Was it a stroke that killed old Mr. Lawry? Or an almond tart laced with poison?
When more guests die, all hopes for a jolly holiday are dashed. Worst of all, the remote mansion is buried under beastly snow. No one can leave. Confined with a killer, no one can enjoy their tea without suspicion and scrutiny. Rex takes it upon himself to solve the mystery, but the most intriguing evidence -- a burnt biography of President George W. Bush -- offers few clues. Could the killer be the sherry-swilling handyman? The gay antiques dealer with a biting wit? The quarreling newlyweds? Surely, it's not Helen D'arcy, the lovely lass Rex seems to be falling for . . .

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The first installment in this new mystery series is a winner. The amateur detective is Rex Graves, a Scottish barrister, fond of Sudoku puzzles and Latin quotations. In an old-fashioned conceit, Challinor begins with a cast of characters, along with hints of possible motives for each. Although set firmly in the present, with numerous references to the Iraq War, his tale reads like a classic country-house mystery. Rex and the others are snowed in at the Swanmere Manor hotel in East Sussex, England. Being the last to arrive (on two tennis rackets lashed to his feet à la snowshoes), Rex immediately hears of the unexpected demise of one of the other guests. Even though they are in touch with the outside world, the authorities instruct the hotel staff to keep the body in a cool room with the windows open. By the time the police arrive days later, additional bodies have piled up and motives are rampant, but Rex has identified the murderer. At times, it seems we are playing Clue or perhaps enjoying a contemporary retelling of a classic Agatha Christie tale (And Then There Were None, or At Bertram’s Hotel) with a charming new sleuth. A must for cozy fans. --Judy Coon


"A great start to a new series that is sure to become a modern favorite traditional English cozy series."
--The Mystery Reader **** (4-Star review = Recommended)

"Christmas is Murder is a most enjoyable first mystery in what promises to be a fantastic series. Challinor writes with wit and cheek, and with Rex Graves she has created a thoroughly charming sleuth." -- Rick Miller, author of Bigger Than Jesus and host of ABC's primetime hit series "Just for Laughs"

"Agatha Christie fans, here you go! You have been waiting for a mystery writer that can hold the torch, well we found her: C.S. Challinor." -- Suspense Magazine

"C.S. Challinor has crafted a delectable murder mystery set in an old English manor turned hotel. Christmas is Murder has all the charm and ambience of a classic Agatha Christie novel. This is mystery at its very best! Challinor is an author to watch. I'll be anxiously awaiting her next book!" -- Nancy Mehl, author of The Ivy Towers Mystery Series

"Challinor's debut is a pleasant modern knockoff of Christie." -- Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2008

"Challinor will keep most readers guessing as she cleverly spreads suspicion and clues that point in one direction, then another." --Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Jan/Feb 2009

"[A] winner...At times, it seems we are playing Clue or perhaps enjoying a contemporary retelling of a classic Agatha Christie tale (And Then There Were None, or At Bertram's Hotel) with a charming new sleuth. A must for cozy fans." --Booklist, Starred Review, Nov. 1, 2008

Product Details

  • Series: A Rex Graves Mystery (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 203 pages
  • Publisher: MIDNIGHT INK; 1St Edition edition (September 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738713597
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738713595
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I have often wondered why authors' bios invariably mention their pets. Does pet ownership make them better writers? Or is it a ploy to endear them to the cherished reader? I wonder no more. Ever since my cat Othello wrote SAY GOODBYE TO ARCHIE in all but actually pawing the text onto the computer keyboard, I am a convert to the pet-oriented bio. Didn't Hemingway keep cats? There we are then. "Quod erat demonstrandum," as my sleuth Rex Graves would say. We all know that "A Farewell to Arms" was only one of many titles Ernest dreamt up for his romance novel, and "A Farewell to Tails" was a close runner-up. But enough about cats.

MURDER AT MIDNIGHT, the newest full-length Rex Graves title from Midnight Ink Books, is a New Year's Eve mystery set in the Highlands of Scotland and is due out in August 2014.

For more information and trade reviews, please visit author at Thank you for reading!

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Christmas is Murder August 7, 2008
Rex Graves is a red-haired Scottish barrister who wants to spend Christmas in Swanmere Manor, an historic hotel in East Sussex. But a harsh blizzard and an unexpected murder ruin those plans. The murderer must be among the guests. There are several possibilities, and Rex must sort through several intriguing clues in a search for the truth.

Challinor presents strong elements of mystery and suspense in a literary style that will remind you of Agatha Christie - at her best. This novel is one of the finest novels I've read in a long time. Fans of mystery will not be disappointed. Challinor is an author who will cause you to clear some space on your bookshelf in anticipation of her next offerings.

Highest Recommendation!
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Mystery Set in a British Blizzard September 3, 2008
This mystery was recommended and had me turning the pages in total absorption until the very end. Good plot, compelling characters, humorous, and a little romance to-boot. The sleuth is a Scottish barrister from Edinburgh, very principaled and likeable. There's an exerpt at the back for the next Rex Graves mystery, "Murder in the Raw," which is set at an exclusive nudist resort in the French West Indies, and which I'll definitely read when it comes out!!
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Likeable Barrister-Sleuth in Impressive Debut September 10, 2008
Prompted by memories of happy childhood visits at Swanmere Manor, QC Rex Graves travels to that remote estate, looking forward to a relaxing Christmas holiday in the country. His mother's friend, the widowed Dahlia Smithings, is still in residence there, having converted her family home to a small hotel.
A series of unexpected events complicates his plans in this entertaining debut novel straight out of the Agatha Christie school of plotting.
His arrival coincides with a blizzard that will bury the inn, effectively isolating both guests and staff. Within minutes, he learns that the previous afternoon's tea had been disrupted by a sudden death. One of the guests confides to Rex that he has questions about the cause of death: Was it a stroke - or poison in the almond tart?
Soon, there's another death. An accident? Or is there indeed a murderer in the house? The body count rises and Rex investigates, aided by two fellow guests. The amateur sleuths uncover some curious secrets and an abundance of possible motives as the list of suspects grows. Unfortunately, that list must include Rex's two confederates, one of whom is an attractive young woman who has sparked a romantic interest in the bachelor barrister.
Finally, in the classic denouement, the survivors gather in the drawing room to hear Rex reveal the solution to this contemporary cozy mystery.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I know it's a cozy, but it badly needs a bit of realism September 16, 2010
This series debut is weak. Three examples: First, at the beginning of the book, the hero arrives at the snowed-in manor by snow-shoeing on tennis rackets. Anyone who has ever snow-shoed would know how utterly impossible that would be. (Besides, who would pack tennis rackets for a December vacation in the British Isles?) Second, not only is the two mile distance from the nearest hamlet to the manor apparently easily snow-shoe[racket]-able, but the hero and a female guest are also able to get their on skis. Yet, the local police can't get through the snow...even after two murders????? Puh-leze. In the country that invented the Land Rover, it's hard to believe the local constabulary are unable to get to what seems to be the hangout of a serial murderer. Third, even after guest after guest is getting bumped off, everyone stays calm and stays put. A normal person would be reacting with some degree of caution, like barricading themselves in their room, refusing to eat anything that they haven't seen coming directly out of a sealed can, always being in the company of at least two other people, etc. Certainly, for the two who skied to the hamlet, it would seem the logically thing to do is get a room at the pub for the duration, but no, they have a drink and ski right back to "murder central". I like cozies, this has enough charm so I give it two stars, and I will try the second book, but only if I can get it from the library.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Snowbound and Captivated October 1, 2009
Rex Graves has no superpowers. He stumbles humorously in relationships and fashion. Rather, his sharp mind and quirky awkwardness make him an engaging and believable sleuth in this mystery set in a manor in the English countryside. It is easy to imagine sitting down to a pint with him. He employs great skill, but his manner enables him to interrogate gently, and earn the confidence and trust of all those in the isolated inn. The setting may be a bit on the nose, but it is also cinematic and timeless. Aside from Rex, the setting and food/drink get the highest marks from me (perhaps i was hungry when reading). Funny and effective use of accents. I enjoyed matching wits with Rex, especially since I almost, but not quite matched him (just as it should be). The author, employs a vivid style that is a shade lighter than you might expect, considering that murder is afoot, but this is fitting when one gets to know Rex. An interesting read, and the most enjoyable airport delay I've ever had. I went directly to order Rex's next, "Murder in the Raw".
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Problems, but an otherwise okay read. January 4, 2013
By Lady O
First, let me say, I give this a 2.5 rating. Nice little cozy, but several problems. It is jumpy, as other reviewers have pointed out. And a few too many Americanisms. I liked the Rex character (although he seemed to be tailored after Hamish MacBeth), and he could have been fleshed out a bit more. Four stars for the basics. Major problems with the various plot developments. First, it is obvious immediately who the intended victim was. Second, none of the supposed red herrings were fully developed. But the unforgivable thing is that when the reason for the murder was revealed, the reader is left scratching her head, and thinking, "Huh? You must be joking." Very, very thin, and somewhat ridiculous. A little more depth is called for in all aspects. (And do have a British person do a quick edit for lingo inaccuracies -- I don't care how long the author lived in the UK -- her Yankeeism is showing.) Having written this, the series does hold promise as an enjoyable cozy series. I have plans to read the second installment.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing
This book aims for traditional British cozy ( what could be more cozy than a snow-bound manor at Christmas) but fails utterly. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Joan Starkovich
5.0 out of 5 stars I like Rex Graves
I like Rex Graves. He is a Scottish lawyer (Advocate) who has been successful in solving some baffling cases. He is a gentle, soft-spoken man, a widower with a college-age son. C. Read more
Published 22 days ago by Susan
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
It was an enjoyable read and encouraged me to read 2 more books in the series (so far!)
Published 25 days ago by Carolyn Arey
2.0 out of 5 stars Afraid I found nothing elegant or intriguing about this
This is the first of a set of five books by this author that I received as a gift, having been purchased from a boutique catalog that has good instincts on reads I’d like. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Kath Grimes
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Easy to read.
Published 1 month ago by Judith K. Drottz
4.0 out of 5 stars A interesting mystery worth reading
A will written English mystery with well developed characters, action is a little slow at times. It is very English which makes the reading interesting and at times hard too... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Kindle Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Liked it but wanders too much
Same slight criticism of earlier Challinor book, Murder in the Raw, that it wanders around too much on false trails. Interesting locations and characters. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Texas Mystery Lover
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good holiday read
Published 1 month ago by Tony
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting little story but I felt it was a bit ...
Interesting little story but I felt it was a bit pedantic. Could have used more lively descriptions. Characters could have been fleshed out more.
Published 2 months ago by Marjorie Maguire
2.0 out of 5 stars not so good
I've read 100 mysteries this year, most of them entertaining. This particular one was very confusing. Read more
Published 3 months ago by E. Tuch
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Topic From this Discussion
Any contemporary Christmas mysteries that aren't too cozy?
Mark, see my Christmas listmania list. It has the novel you mentioned and a Christmas short story compilation, which would make a good stocking stuffer. Enjoy!
Sep 4, 2008 by avid reader |  See all 4 posts
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