A too-cute, straining-to-be-Noel-Coward second venture for mystery-writer Barry Vaughan and his wife Dee, who, along with their pet Bella, spend Christmas at The Grove, a small, charming Sussex inn run by the obliging Brewers. Also on hand are an elderly Major; gorgeous, mercenary model Miranda Travers; Tony and Terry, antique-shop owners in Rye; and the odd couple: a middle-aged schoolmarm and her young, handsome companion. Settled in nearby is Miranda's lovesick swain, impoverished artist Morgan Grant. The about-to-be-engaged Miranda (wealthy beau, of course) receives a valuable bauble from another admirer, then, surprisingly, sips some poison. Whodunit? Barry and Dee chat up the prospects; reconnoiter the antique shops; discover secret drawers and missing packages; and--with a tip from the Major and an assist front a walk-on (a Scotland Yard inspector)--confront the villains and their dastardly schemes, all the while giving Bella a few ill-deserved pats of love. Ever so arch, and if the chapters weren't labeled (""Barry,"" ""Dee,"" etc.), it would be impossible to tell which first person was talking. Nick, Nora, and Asta are probably drinking their martinis straight from the gin bottle at the mere thought of this one. Skippable.