Christmas can be murder
By Sally Carpenter
Only ten weeks until Christmas!
In my mind, it’s never too early to break out the holly and tune up the carols. I’m a Christmas junkie. I cry when I pack away the decorations each year and count down the days when I can put them up again. I’ve toyed with the idea of leaving them up year-round. That would save me the bother of hauling them out of storage each year and unpacking.
Readers of cozy mysteries love Christmas. I’m not sure why, but there’s something about the holiday season that brings out the larceny. Maybe it’s the juxtaposing of a cheery time of goodwill against murder, or the thought of strangling that annoying neighbor with a strand of colored lights. Most cozy series have at least one Christmas-themed mystery. I finally wrote my contribution to the genre: The Notorious Noel Caper.
As you can tell by the title, it’s part of my Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol series—book five, in fact. I’m astounded that I’ve made it this far in my writing. I have two cozies in my other series—the Psychedelic Spy—for a total of seven books. Many authors have a greater backlist, but I’ll celebrate my output. My first novel was published ten years ago (2011), so that’s almost one book a year. Not bad for a part-time author holding down a day job. Also, many writers stop after one or two books, so I’m thrilled with my longevity.
My Christmas mystery has a twist—it’s set in Southern California, where snow is something you won’t see unless you watch a Hallmark movie or drive (with chains on the tires) up the mountains to the ski resorts. In SoCal, Christmas means sand at the beach, and “cold” weather is 55 degrees. You wouldn’t believe the number of people who have commented about the thick, quilted coat I brought with me when I moved from the Midwest. A “winter coat” here is really a hoodie zipped up.
My book is the only Christmas cozy ever written with surfing Santas. When I was writing the third draft, I saw a newspaper article about the real surfing Santas. That sounded so cool I added them in the story. Every year some surfers dress up in red-and-white wetsuits, put on fake beards and Santa hats, and surf off the coast. No agenda except to put a smile on faces as people watch them shoot the waves. My book cover has a surfing Santa. In chapter 15, Sandy is involved in a surfing Santa event and, like everything Sandy does, ends in near disaster.
The story is set at the Santa’s Magic theme park, based off a poplar (and fictious) movie franchise. SoCal is home to a number of theme parks. Santa’s Magic was inspired by the real-life Santa Claus Land (now called Holiday World), which opened in Santa Claus, Indiana, in 1946, making it the world’s oldest theme park (Disneyland debuted in 1955). My Psychedelic Spy series also has a Christmas theme park, but I made sure the two parks had different rides and attractions.
Sandy is the emcee of the Miss North Pole pageant, inspired by the fact that teen idol Donny Osmond has been involved with both the Miss Universe and Miss USA events. But things get sticky when Sandy’s girlfriend, Cinnamon, is jealous of him spending time around the beautiful contestants. Sandy and Cinnamon are sorting out their relationship that’s been growing over four books.
And the mystery? Well, this time I have three bodies. I had asked members of a cozy readers Facebook group how they felt about multiple murders in a book. Their answers scared me. One said, “The more the merrier!” Since cozy murders take place off the page, three bodies are not as ruthless as it sounds. All of the bodies turn up at the Santa’s Magic park, substituting ho-ho-homicide for holiday cheer.
Christmas cozies remind us of the darkness that lurks in human hearts. In scripture, after the joyful nativity the Holy Family fled into another country to escape an evil ruler who then killed hundreds of babies. Christmas Day may mean sorrow to families who can’t afford gifts or those who face empty dinner table chairs that once held loved ones who have passed away. For some, Christmas may be just another day of living in a sidewalk tent. But cozies also bring us a happy ending: the crook is caught and community order is restored. And what will happened between Sandy and Cinnamon? That too may be a happy ending as well.
It’s Christmastime in Tinsel Town, and there’s plenty of ho-ho-homicide at the soon-to-open Santa’s Magic theme park, where bodies are dropping like snowflakes. Former pop star Sandy Fairfax has a killer job—he’s the emcee for the televised Miss North Pole beauty contest–er, scholarship pageant. But will the beautiful contestants make his girlfriend jealous? Or will she join him in his sleuthing? The deadly Christmas season begins at a celebrity bowling tournament when a pinsetter plops down a body instead of the pins. Throw in surfing Santas, a seductive executive’s wife, a sleazy tabloid editor, an egotistical movie rival and a gift-wrapped death trap, and it’s the most wonderful time of the year.
As my Christmas gift to readers, I’m giving away a free story to those who sign up for my mailing list. Sandy Fairfax starred in a hit 1970s TV show, Buddy Brave Boy Sleuth. You can get a free Buddy Brave adventure, “The Medieval Malice Caper,” at http://sandyfairfaxauthor.com; scroll to the bottom of the page for the button.
Sally Carpenter is a native Hoosier who now lives in Southern California. Besides writing seven cozies, all published by Cozy Cat Press, she has stories in three anthologies and penned chapter three of the group mystery Chasing the Codex. She works at a community newspaper where she also writes the Roots of Faith column. This year she welcomed a new rescue cat into her home.