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Nice Old-fashioned Cozy Mystery
on January 2, 2007
Cecily Sinclair Baxter is annoyed when Sid Porter fails to show up at the children's party where he was hired to play Father Christmas. Her annoyance soon turns to horror when it's discovered that one of her footmen fell to his death from the roof where he was apparently helping Sid. Even worse, Sid, dressed in his Father Christmas costume, is found stabbed to death in her chimney. With the Pennyfoot Hotel filled at Christmas, Cecily does her best to keep the deaths quiet but it's not easy to do with a practical joker moving things around the hotel and a clown "ghost" hanging around the hotel. The police are on holiday and Cecily starts investigating the deaths herself. While Cecily is investigating, she is also worried about her husband Baxter's strange behavior and wonders what secrets he is keeping from her.
"Slay Bells" is a nice entry in Kate Kingsbury's delightful Pennyfoot Hotel series. The book is set in England in 1914 and has a nice old-fashioned feel to it. Kingsbury fills the book not only with the mystery but also with Christmas traditions such as holiday shows with skits and dancers and descriptions of food including blood pudding which makes the time period come alive. All the favorite Pennyfoot characters are there: Cecily, Baxter, Gertie, Mrs. Chubb, Michel, Madeline, the Colonel, and Phoebe are all there. Ex-maid Doris even pays a visit to the Pennyfoot and there's a new maid, Pansy, who figures quite prominently in the story line. There are several plot lines in the book: the murders, the "ghost", the practical jokes, Baxter's secret and Kingsbury neatly ties everything up at the end with quite a few surprises. The actual murder plot line is well done and the identity of the murderer will be a surprise to most readers. As Kingsbury often does in her books, the motive is a sad one that will have readers in some ways feeling sorry for the murderer.
"Slay Bells" is a nice cozy mystery to read.