Drowning in Christmas by Judith K. Ivie (Mainly Murder Press, 2010) is the fourth book in the Kate Lawrence mystery series. Kate and her partners Margo and Charlene have shelved their Hartford, Connecticut, real estate business for the present during the lingering recession. Kate accepts a temporary position with a local nonprofit just in time for the organization’s major fundraiser. Held during the height of Christmas celebrations, an auction is staged in the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, the oldest public art museum in the United States, with the attendant wine and hors d’oeuvres.
While coordinating the usual last-minute flurry of activities leading up to the auction, family responsibilities are occupying Kate’s mind. Her old cat is grieving the loss of the other cat a month previously and is refusing to eat. Kate is mourning too and is frantically looking for tidbits to tempt the sad kitty. Her daughter is bringing a new boyfriend to Christmas dinner and wants everything Norman Rockwell perfect. Her ex-husband begs her to host the holiday wedding of his nephew (and Kate’s godson) in her home since his temporary apartment is too small. Kate’s live-in boyfriend is on business travel and not sure if he will return in time to celebrate the day with her. It’s all just about more than she can bear.
Then on the night of the auction, which goes swimmingly up to the point Santa Claus is to appear, the nonprofit’s financial officer, James O’Halloran, slated to serve as Santa Claus, fails to respond to his cue. No one can find him anywhere, so Kate and the nonprofit CEO scramble to smooth over the gaffe. After all the donors have left, a comprehensive search reveals nothing. The local police will not accept a missing person’s report for 48 hours, and Kate and the CEO are at a loss as to where to look for him. Discussion with his wife reveals his black sheep brother has surfaced after an absence of years, no doubt looking for money, and everyone wonders if his appearance has something to do with O’Halloran’s disappearance.
The mystery here is gossamer thin, anemic and waiflike. However, this is a fine Christmas read, full of the scents, sights, and sounds that say Christmas in the contemporary United States, from the music to the food to the rampant consumerism. The scene where Kate stops to listen to the choir practicing to the accompaniment of a huge pipe organ in the nearby cathedral dazzling with extravagant Christmas decorations is a good example. I particularly like the way expectations are nicely tempered with realism throughout. Kate plans a complicated menu that succeeds no better than most, and she tries to accommodate her godson’s wedding plans that go awry. Her children bicker and the family of her friend Charlene all come down with the flu. While nothing goes quite as planned, the outcomes are still satisfying. A good addition to any holiday reading list.
· Hardcover: 234 pages
· Publisher: Mainly Murder Press (October 1, 2010)
· Language: English
· ISBN-10: 0982795254
· ISBN-13: 978-0982795255
Aubrey Hamilton ©2019
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.