Spending the holidays with family can be murder in Moore’s (Murder at the Country Club, 2018, etc.) contemporary cozy mystery.
Sally Braddock has been a widow for six years, and she lives on a 17-acre estate that’s so high up in the mountains above Vail, Colorado, that there’s no cellphone service. Now in her late 50s, she keeps in shape by swimming daily in her outdoor pool, regardless of the weather. Her businessman husband left her more than $3 billion and three spoiled, grown children. All the 30-something kids claim poverty, despite their multimillion-dollar trust funds, due to extravagant purchases (daughter Gwen owns an armada of luxury boats), ill-advised investing (son Lance funds movies for his actress/centerfold wife, Yvette), or snorting cocaine and gambling (favorite child Stephen is just out of rehab). Encouraged by their spouses, the siblings all ask Sally for more money during their annual Christmas visit. Upset, she screams that she plans to give 95 percent of her money to a charitable foundation. Her only true friend seems to be her devoted live-in housekeeper, Helga. After a winter storm knocks out the phone lines and internet service and blocks the road, one of the Braddocks is murdered—but was the deceased the intended victim? The next night brings another attack as well as news that someone has gone missing. Moore offers several twists and red herrings over the course of the novel, and she populates the well-paced mystery with a slew of imperfect characters. There are a few bits of characterization that readers may find difficult to believe, such as Gwen’s paying $50,000 for a purple purse. However, Moore’s depiction of the shadowy Helga is reminiscent of that of Daphne du Maurier’s Mrs. Danvers in the classic novel Rebecca. The book’s swimming and skiing scenes, which turn out to be crucial to the plot, benefit from the fact that the author is a former sportswriter: “The next run they tackled wasn’t as long, but it had a lot of challenging moguls. Gwen slowed down a bit, trying to figure out better ways to maneuver over the undulating hills.”
An often clever mystery about a dysfunctional family going downhill.