All right, here we are at the end of January. Have your neighbors - the ones with the unbelievably garish Christmas displays on their house - taken the decorations down yet? No? Then here's a mystery that may help you survive until they do.
It's called "Rest You Merry," by Charlotte MacLeod, and it is a very funny, very well-written mystery about Peter Shandy, Professor of Horticulture at Balaclava Agricultural College in New England. It is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the full review by clicking here.
For many years, Balaclava Agricultural College has earned a considerable amount of money by having a winter festival of lights and sound generally called "the grand illumination" - with all the residents of the area around the college decorating and over-decorating their homes with garish lights and playing recordings of holiday music. Well, all the residents except Professor Shandy. He's not anti-holiday, he just doesn't like all the noise and nonsense. But he is constantly pressured to break down and load up the decorations - with much of the pressure coming from his busybody neighbor, Jemima Ames. Finally, Shandy snaps. He hires a team of electricians and decorators to put up the largest, most garish, most brightly-lit, blinking and twinkling decorations anywhere, loads up a sound system with loud holiday music, carefully turns everything on full-blast, locks the controls (so that nobody can turn them off) - and leaves home on vacation.
Unfortunately for him, the ship on which he is cruising breaks down, so he must return home - where he finds, inside his house, the body of that busybody neighbor. The police think she died from falling off a ladder while trying to turn off his display, but the professor is sure it is murder.
Do I have to tell you who's right?
And that is just the beginning of a very amusing, very cozy mystery by Charlotte MacLeod. In the course of her writing career, she turned out some 30 books, including several series. "Rest You Merry" was the first of ten books to feature Professor Shandy. MacLeod's books are very definitely "cozies" by definition - there's little in the way of violence or sex, with everything taking place well offstage, and there's a lot of humor. There's also a pretty good mystery as part of it all. If you enjoy the cozy style, you will almost certainly enjoy Charlotte MacLeod's books. Many are out of print, though there seem to be plenty of used copies available. The Mysterious Press and Open Road Media are bringing her novels back as e-books, and "Rest You Merry" is available in a variety of formats, including one for the Amazon Kindle.