When Christmas comes to the North Kent town of Whitstable, it brings a series of poison-pen greeting cards and some even deadlier poisons.
Nathan, Pearl Nolan’s gay neighbor and friend, is miffed at getting a Christmas card containing a message assembled from words cut from the local paper: “You have no style.” Her other neighbors have been receiving missives even more pointed. “The love of money is the root of all evil,” estate agent Adam Castle is admonished. Jimmy Herbert, landlord of the Leather Bottle pub, is “Lazy slob,” herbalist Phyllis Rusk “Greedy Pig.” Beautician Charmaine Hillcroft receives what seems like the most threatening message: “Look sideways at others and you will never go forward.” But the booby prize goes to Diana Marshall, Pearl’s accountant, who soon after reading, “Lose your temper and you lose everything,” is fed a fatal dose of antifreeze. DCI Mike McGuire, the obvious lead investigator (and Pearl's possible love interest), is sidelined because he’s one of the lead witnesses, but since Pearl’s not only the owner of The Whitsable Pearl, but a budding private investigator, everyone expects her to join the infinitely less competent DI Tony Shipley in solving the case, though no one offers to pay her anything. It’s not long before one of the prime suspects is found dead with a remarkably similar note accepting the blame for spreading all those dark compliments of the season. Despite widespread encouragement to accept the posthumous confession, Pearl digs in her heels, remembers some telltale details from her many conversations with her friends and neighbors, and soon produces another and more surprising suspect.
Better plotted than The Whitstable Pearl Mystery (2018), though the central gimmick has a long history and Wassmer still shows more interest in the pre-romance between the two sleuths than in anyone else, including the victim and the killer. Fans of Yuletide homicide won’t mind a bit.