Aha! I know what you're thinking - it's another Christmas book review. Well....yes and no.
The main character is Tom Christmas - a vicar in England - you could refer to him as Father Christmas. The book is set during the winter. And the title - well, the first book in this series was titled Twelve Drummers Drumming....(my review) And if you're looking for a great book for the reader on your Christmas list this year, Eleven Pipers Piping would be a really good choice.
But no matter what, C.C. Benison's latest book is a wonderful, well written, cozy mystery, perfect for reading anytime. (Although by the twinkle of the Christmas lights on my tree seemed fitting.)
Widower Father Tom has been the vicar of the English village of Thornford Regis for a few years now. He's been asked to give the blessing at the local Robbie Burns dinner. But when of one of the members of the The Thistle But Mostly Rose South Devon Pipe Band goes missing and is later found dead, Father Christmas again finds himself in the thick of things. For it seems that one amongst them might be a murderer.....
Eleven Pipers Piping opens with the daily letter that Father Tom's housekeeper Madrun writes to her mother. These letters are full of gossip, speculation and Madrun's take on the goings on in the village. (I quite enjoy them.) Father Tom is very circumspect with what his parishioners tell him - he's known to keep confidences to himself, but Madrun's knowledge sometimes proves useful. His young daughter Miranda is enamored of a fictional French Nancy Drew character and her observations have also been of help to her father.
Thornford Regis reminds me of one of those English village displays you'd see on a mantle at Christmas - a tea room, the church, the local meeting hall, the corner store, the manor house and more. Benison has populated his village with quite an eclectic cast of characters, providing us with a wealth of choices for whodunit. (He's also thoughtfully provided a Cast of Characters reference at the beginning of the book) Each reader will find a favourite in this cast of many.
Christmas is a wonderful protagonist whose character has more depth than just the local curious reverend. His personal story is ongoing, believable and engaging. His demeanor and dialogue are pitch perfect.
I thought I had figured out the culprit early on, but there are lots of red herrings and my initial hunch was proven wrong. The strength of this series is in the characters, setting and interactions among the population of the village. Those who enjoy cozy mysteries will love Father Tom and his congregation.
And there's more to come - Father Christmas is planning a charity skydive to raise money for the new church roof.....in Ten Lords A-Leaping...watch for it in 2013 - I will be!
Read an excerpt of Eleven Pipers Piping.
You can find C.C. Benison on Twitter and on Facebook.