‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the village, the night settled in over swirling-smoke chimneys; the air was alive with pine and holly, with sugar and cinnamon and cider, by golly!

Along snowy lanes and through shadows it crept, past windows behind which each villager slept, where sleeping dogs lie and cats rest a’purring—

Tonight, in Christmas Village, a killer is stirring.

Welcome to Christmas Village, a magical hamlet where even in December the roses hold their luster and bees buzz among the bluebells. You’re just in time for the week-long Christmas Festival, and nowhere is Christmas celebrated with such unrestrained merriment as the village which bears its name. Mayor Cobblestone and Sheriff Fell will be somewhere nearby, doing all they can to make sure you’re safe during your stay.

Provided you haven’t booked a room at Plum Cottage.

Nestled betwixt an opulent garden with meandering footpaths and an ancient grove of plum trees, Rose Willoughby’s boarding house is plum-full with lodgers. There are no vacancies, but just wait. Soon there will be one…and another…and another.

Presently lodging at the cottage are: the juggler, the acrobat, the magician, the psychic, the strongman, the manager, and the pretty assistant. In town as festival entertainment they’ve each brought their own bag of tricks. And a closetful of skeletons.

When the entertainers begin dying in inexplicable ways, some villagers believe a beast from old village lore is the culprit. The sheriff knows better, but he’s just as helpless to catch the invisible killer as are the town folk with their eyes to the sky in search of a flying creature. But our mysterious murderer hasn’t counted on yet another lodger coming to the cottage: Maribel Claus.

Short as a stump, round as a wheel, sweet as a candy cane, and a sharp as a whip, Maribel loves a good puzzle. But has she finally met her match at Plum Cottage?

Can you figure out whodunit before Maribel does? If you’re up to the challenge, here’s your first clue—the key to unlocking the secret of the murderer’s identity lies in figuring out how the murders were committed. Good luck!

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Character Interview- Maribel Claus

Ms. Claus, welcome to Island Confidential! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

My name is Maribel Claus (maiden name Meriwether) and I’ve lived my entire life in Christmas Village. You’d like to know a secret? It’s hard to keep secrets in a village such as Christmas, but I do have one I’ll share. Some years ago, a man was coming through town in his little old automobile when the car went belly-up on him out past Frost Hollow where few folks are liable to pass after nightfall. As fate would have it I was coming in from the opposite direction, having visited some kin of the mister’s over in Glen Allyn. I saw this man bent over his engine and stopped to see what I could do. He asked if I could jump his battery and it so happens I keep some cables in my trunk for just such an occasion. We got him up and running again and in thanks he handed me a bottle of what I took to be syrup. You see, there’s never anything stronger than apple cider on tap in Christmas Village, so I assumed the syrup had come from some far-off hamlet called Bourbon, as read the label. Well, I added liberal amounts to the next plum pudding I made for the City Hall banquet. What could best be described as mass possession ensued. I couldn’t understand a word the good reverend was saying as he sounded as though his mouth were full of marbles! Imagine my surprise shortly thereafter when I was unanimously voted the baker of the year and handed an award by the mayor himself. And all for a simple plum pudding!

Who’s your favorite character in Christmas Village?

Rose Willoughby. Oh, dear Rose. She’s been my nearest and dearest for as many moons as I can count backwards. Bless her heart, she has no family of her own. Just Plum Cottage which she runs as a lodging house for out-of-town folk. But a jollier soul you never did meet!

Christmas Village seems so peaceful. Isn’t there anyone there who’s even a little bit difficult?

Life’s too short and busy to be squandering a lick of it away on conflict. But if you’re asking if there’s someone who’d do well to get out of my way from time to time if not his own way, then that would have to be Sheriff Fell. Oh, he’s good enough at his job so long as his job isn’t solving a puzzling murder. But one makes do and I try my best to make an asset out of a liability. It might be said the good sheriff does a fine job of making an asset out of himself, and depending which syllable is getting the emphasis, it’s a statement I can’t rightly disagree with.

Just between you and me: What do you really think of your author?

Mr. Wescott? I’d say he’s a serviceable biographer of village life. Good with a joke here and there and not bad in building the suspense. He sure does like me to take my time getting to the big reveal, though. You’d think I could just name the scoundrel and be done with it. But no, Wescott likes a big show. So, I give it to him!

What’s next for you, Ms. Claus?

I’m sorry to say that murder and mystery is a year-round problem in these parts, so you’ll be hearing a lot more from me at all times of year. Expect to find me in my second adventure sometime between April and July, and then just wait to see what I have in store for you around Halloween 2019! I wish I could tell you more, but Mr. Wescott doesn’t like to tell me much until he’s fully constructed his puzzles. Then he drops me right in the middle of them and writes what he sees as I work my way out. Not a bad way for a body to spend a day!

About the Author

T.C. Wescott was born in Missouri but has lived in Oklahoma most of his life. Like pretty much every author who has ever breathed, he is an avid reader. His favorites are classic mysteries from the Golden Age, as well as just before or just after that period (which is widely considered the period between the two World Wars). His first mystery novel, Running from Scissors, was published in July 2018 and will be the first of at least three books in the Running Store Mystery series.

The Christmas Village Mystery series will launch in November of the same year with the debut title Slay Bells. The formula for his books is simple – mixing the classic, traditional detective fiction standards with all the trappings of the modern cozy mystery.

Wescott is also (under another name) the author of two award-winning non-fiction books as well as a slew of essays and articles.

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