This week I read two fun Christmas books. One was a cozy mystery, and the other one would make a fantastic Hallmark Channel movie.
I love M.C. Beaton's mysteries. I've read several of her Hamish MacBeth mysteries as well as the Agatha Raisin ones. When I saw Agatha Raisin and the Busy Body at my local library, I thought it would be a fun read during the Christmas Holidays.
According to Goodreads:
Christmas falls on a Sunday ...
A blood-curdling scream stirs Agatha Raisin from her surreptitious slumbers at the Christmas meeting of Carsely's Ladies' Society. In a holly bush in the vicarage grounds, Mr Sunday, an officer from the local health and safety board, is found dead. It seems his latest ruling against a Christmas tree atop the church tower may have been the last straw for the health-and-safety-hounded villagers.
If festive cheer is to return to Carsely, Agatha must find the killer fast. But with so many people having threatened the life of the victim, it's almost impossible to know where to start.
Poor Agatha. She attempts a Christmas holiday abroad in the sun that turns into a lonely waste of time with most of the restaurants and other attractions listed in the guidebook closed for the holiday. She returns home to a Ladies' Society meeting held at a dreary neighboring village vicarage only to witness the grisly murder of Mr. Sunday, the most obnoxious health and safety inspector in all of England. He was a bully and everyone hated him which makes everyone a suspect in his murder. He found reasons to basically remove all holiday displays under his jurisdiction due to "health and safety concerns." Plus Agatha is having issues within her agency, she's a victim of some very bad press, and her love life is nonexistent. Mayhap she should have stayed away during Christmas!
This is a fun Agatha Raisin mystery. The middle-aged sleuth is more sassy than ever, and she doesn't allow the press, personal tragedy, and tight-lipped villagers get her down. She and her team chase leads and suspects, and the conclusion of this mystery is a shocking thriller. I highly recommend Agatha Raisin and the Busy Body if you enjoy cozy mysteries with a Christmas theme.
According to Goodreads:
Donna VanLiere, New York Times bestselling author of the timeless The Christmas Shoes and The Christmas Hope, is back with this moving and uplifting story about finding love, hope, and family in unexpected places.
Lauren Gabriel spent many years of her childhood in foster homes, wishing her mother would come back for her and be the family she needs. Now twenty-years-old, she still longs for a place that she can truly call home. Her work as a cashier is unfulfilling, and at Christmas it’s unbearable with the songs and carols and chatter of Christmas that she hears throughout the day.
When Lauren ends her shift one night, she finds herself driving aimlessly in order to avoid returning to her lonely apartment. And when she witnesses a car accident she is suddenly pulled into the small town of Grandon, first as a witness but then as a volunteer for the annual fundraiser for Glory’s Place, a center for single mothers and families who need assistance. Could this town and its people be the home she has always longed for?
This is the latest of VanLiere's Christmas novels, and it's nice to return to Grandon and revisit several of my favorite characters, especially Gloria and Miriam from Glory's Place. You can read my review for The Christmas Promise HERE. The Christmas Town is not really a sequel to The Christmas Promise. Both are stand alone books, but if you want more of a background about Glory's Place, then you might want to read The Christmas Promise first. You can read my review of The Christmas Secret (also about Glory's Place) HERE.
Lauren is a character after my own heart. Both of her parents abandoned her, and although many of her foster parents are good people she's never felt like she belongs in any of their families. Determined to celebrate Christmas this year as a part of a family, she takes matters into her own hands by placing a Craig's List ad asking for a family who will welcome her as one of their own. In the meantime, she witnesses an accident in Grandon, a town about an hour from where she lives, and she quickly becomes involved with the town's Christmas festivities and a fundraiser at Glory's Place. It really isn't shocking who responds to Lauren's ad, but the circumstances and a relic from Lauren's childhood are enough evidence for the biggest doubters in town to believe in Christmas miracles.
I also love Ben's character. He is a young man with a disability who works as a grocery bagger in one of Grandon's grocery stores. He spends hours each evening writing original handwritten notes he carefully chooses and places in his patron's grocery bags. Lauren meets Ben as a customer at the store, and she becomes interested in his notes because they seem so personal: How can Ben possibly know what encouragement people need in his checkout line? I think everyone needs a Ben in his or her life!
This is such a sweet and uplifting Christmas story. It's about choosing to belong to a family and community through involvement and courage. It's about the spirit of giving because it truly is better to give than to receive. It's about how small gestures of encouragement can change the direction of a person's day. It's also about faith. Psalm 32:8 is definitely a theme of the story: