Looks like Dasher and Dancer are out of luck this year. Santa Claus is in the slammer.
Charlie Baines, who plays Santa to his brother Andrew’s Scrooge, likes to dress up as the jolly old elf even in midsummer. So it’s no surprise when he turns up at the Baines Building fully suited one July evening to pay a visit to his Grinchlike brother. The surprise comes when Charlie descends from the 30th floor with the news that “something really bad has happened” and that the police can reach him at his home. Acting on information received, the cops find Andrew shot to death and promptly arrest unruffled Charlie, unleashing a frenzy in the legal community. The defense team Gordon Moon assembles—his brother-in-law Vern Wagstaff and newly minted associate Eve Nyquist—is opposed by three ADA’s whose ties to the defense—basketball-playing Melba Wooten is a longtime adversary, David Ketchum is Eve’s lover and Agnes Wagstaff Moon is Vern’s sister and Gordon’s wife—guarantees sitcom complications. Even the trial judge, Hon. Marisol Estrada, is the Moons’s former maid. The amusing back-and-forth, though not for a minute believable, goes a long way to hide the wafer-thin mystery and characterization. But the courtroom byplay is so inconsequential that when Gordon has to stall the trial so Eve can investigate a crucial lead, most readers will scarcely notice anything different.
Breen (Eye of God, 2006, etc.) delivers a whodunit so easygoing and guileless that when its romantic leads first meet, Eve can tell David, “You sound like a series character.”