A foray into community theater endangers the life of an Ohio sleuth.
Krissy Hancock’s plan to spend at least part of Christmas in California with her father is derailed when he calls and announces his plan to go to the Swiss Alps with a woman he’s dating. When Krissy’s friend Vicki, who co-owns their coffee shop/bookstore, insists that she take the time off after all, her unexpected vacation leads to her reluctantly playing an elf in a Christmas play festooned with complications. Lawrence, the hard-driving director of the Pine Hills Community Theater, expects perfection from his motley crew. Krissy is shocked when she arrives for her first rehearsal to find her former boyfriend Robert Dunhill in the cast along with his latest squeeze, Trisha, who’s playing Mrs. Claus. The former Santa, Randy Winter, was fired for heavy drinking, and the new Santa is in Robert’s bad books for hitting on Trisha. So when Santa Chuck is stabbed to death, the police arrest Robert, who ran off before they arrived. Robert, who knows Krissy’s reputation as a sleuth (Death by Vanilla Latte, 2017, etc.), begs her to investigate over the objections of her former crush police officer Paul Dalton and the rest of the Pine Hills police. Of course the show must go on, giving Krissy plenty of opportunities to snoop around the theater and learn who else may have wanted Chuck dead. The list is longer than she thought it might be. Luckily, she’s still off from her job, and her current boyfriend is a busy doctor, so she has every chance of finding the killer before he finds her.
Fans may savor the details of the heroine’s everyday life, but Erickson’s fascination with them does slow down the action.