Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Requiem at Christmas - by Melanie Jackson... Good but could have been Great!

Juliet Henry loved snow. Without snow there was no cross-country skiing. No skiing and there was no Christmas spirit, however feeble, to shine on the bleak winter...
In spite of adapting in every other way, somehow she had expected— and desperately needed— more than a Winter Fireworks Spectacular! at the beach to get her in a holiday mood. She wasn’t just looking for time away from the job anymore.

She actually liked the exertion of skiing. Without it, she was left feeling downtrodden and cheated, unable to bustle about like the rest of her neighbors who seemed to adore the holidays, smug in the knowledge that they had family and friends who would keep them from ever being alone on the world’s most depressing holiday. She decided that this year she would need to travel to the Sierra Nevada Mountains where they had real snow— and now she had a good reason to go. And also an inexpensive package deal at the inn where Harrison had booked a block of rooms for the concertgoers.,,
No, she would manage on her own. This was her second winter in California. She had seen what people called storms and they were nothing. How much worse could it be in the Sierras? Marley had known better, being a cat and being sensible. He had listened carefully to the weather report and warned her before she left...
...She could be happy with a box of sparklers and a seat by the reservoir where they would set off pretty red and green explosive synchronizations to “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” and “Jingle Bell Rock” if she just tried a little harder. But no, Harrison Peters was preforming the Requiem Mass he had written for his father, who died in Afghanistan. He had a venue at the Celtic Christmas Festival just outside of South Lake Tahoe and she wanted to be there to hear it, and to pray for peace on earth and an end to all wars. And to ski. So Juliet had donned her thermal underwear and pulled on her warmest sweater, which happened to be something Rose made her for her birthday, in a cheery red wool woven from itchy goat hair she got from a nearby farm— and which, when damp, still smelled vaguely of that farm. She strapped her skis on the Subaru and then, armed with a thermos of coffee and pumpkin cupcakes from the bakery and a full tank of gas, she hit the road for her great Christmas adventure, leaving her bungalow thick with paint fumes behind.

Requiem at Christmas:
A Miss Henry Cozy Mystery Series

By Melanie Jackson

This was my first time reading author, Melanie Jackson. Requiem at Christmas is third in the series. I found the storyline lighthearted, zippy dialogue even with the title...

Saint Clair Church,
which was a gorgeous mix
 of Swiss chalet and old-world
 cathedral, but with tricky
 recording difficult.

Harrison Peters was performing
the Requiem Mass he had written
for his father who had died in
Afghanistan. He had a venue at
the Celtic Christmas Festival...
Juliet Henry is combining her vacation based upon an invitation to attend the Mass, the music for which had been composed by the deceased's son and which would be held in a nearby church. There had been a bus chartered, but Juliet had decided she wanted to travel herself... 

Bad mistake...

Starting off with a winter storm warning was bad enough, but when Juliet decided to take a suggestion from her GPS which took her out into the country, she was worried. Most of the small buildings/cabins looked empty and she hadn't seen any other cars for quite some time, until one car came from in front of her and nearly forced her off the road... 

Once she went on, however, she knew she would have to turn around and try to find that ranger station she'd passed... Only problem was that, once turned around, the road was blocked by a car sitting across the road...the same car that had just passed her.

Instinct warned her... intuition spoke to her... She wasn't really surprised that the man in the car was dead... with a knife in his chest... 

Hopefully there would be a ranger on duty because phones were worthless in this location. The ranger met her courteously and was able to call for the police, but before they were able to get there, the car, and the body, were set on fire. The only person that could help the police was the one, unexpected, witness...

While I really enjoyed the mystery, I was somewhat frustrated when the author failed to identify any background of her main female character, Juliet Henry. I felt I was misled by the cozy mystery designation, which refers to amateurs playing detective. In fact, none of the ongoing (???, I assumed) were identified, including two close male friends. 

Yes, by the end of the book we learned this--actually I had looked Juliet up on the author's web site so I could better follow the story...  

I did like Juliet the character, except when the author took over and made her choices below. The two male characters, and Juliet have good teasing relationships, if we only knew a little about what happened in the past. One for instance is in a wheelchair and emphasis is placed on how he is treated by others; however, the author never takes the time to tell the readers who he is, what he does, and whether there is something between Juliet and him, leaving us even further wondering when they apparently stay in one room at a Bed and Breakfast.

You see, Juliet Henry is a retired NSA intelligence operative. I don't consider that revealing more than I should--I consider this a flaw in the book...Each book should stand alone whether in a series or not. There is no way that the author is not responsible for describing her characters sufficiently early in the book for readers to understand what was happening. 

Details are there that must be questioned--Juliet's review of the crime scene and provision of what possibly could have happened were far too professional for Miss Henry to be an amateur detective, as is normal in cozies. In fact, she handled most of the police procedural information in the book, rather than the officers themselves... Astute readers, without information, begin to question just who this woman was... the book becomes less than satisfactory... Additionally, the ending proved anti-climactic when Henry takes over in the "show-not-tell" dialogue and tells the reader what evidence she used to solve the case...There was nothing in this book to create any excitement for solving the supposed mystery... The logic, facts and criminal analysis that normally readers would gather throughout the book was all lumped and told to us at the end... Bummer...

And just an added personal thought...does "anybody" use"Miss" these days? (I haven't used Miss as a salutation since the 80s...and, certainly, once I found out she was a high-ranking NSA agent, I knew she wouldn't use "Miss" on the job. Outdated series title, lack of sufficient character description for a new reader, had to be considered from my standpoint. For a first book for this author, I found it good, with a solid mystery that encompasses the Requiem Mass activity within the murder mystery quite effectively. For me, I was dissatisfied enough that I wouldn't go back to pick up the series, nor will I continue on... You decide on this one and do read other reviews as you consider your options... 


Melanie has been writing her entire life. In fact, one of her earliest fond memories is receiving an IBM Selectric typewriter for her birthday. After publishing romance novels (Scottish historical and paranormal) for New York based publisher Dorchester Publishing from 1999 to 2010, Melanie chose to begin self-publishing cozy mysteries. Since then she has released the Chloe Boston, Butterscotch Jones, Wendover House, Kenneth Mayhew and Miss Henry Mystery series.
Melanie Jackson is the award-winning author of more than one hundred novels, novellas and poems published in various languages. She was a 2004 Romantic Times Career Achievement Award Finalist—Contemporary New Reality, a 2003 Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award Finalist—Best Historical Paranormal Fantasy, a 2003 Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award Finalist—Best Contemporary Paranormal and won the 2001 Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award—Best Time-travel. 
Melanie lives with her writer husband and her bossy cat in the Sonoma wine country. Besides gardening, she is involved with animal charities.

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