Connecticut dog breeder Melanie Travis (Murder at the Puppy Fest, 2017, etc.) finds a sleighful of trouble when her brother buys an abandoned Christmas tree farm.
Haney’s Holiday Home used to be one of Wilton’s premier attractions. But once owner Abel Haney died, the cozy storefront fell into disrepair. Only the acres of evergreens surrounding the clapboard building remained in pristine condition, and it was these beautiful trees that tempted impulsive Frank Turnbull to bid on the property at auction. Next thing you know, Frank, who already has his hands full running The Bean Counter, the coffee shop he co-owns with Melanie’s ex-husband, Bob, is scurrying to get the shop ready for the Christmas season. Melanie, whose five champion standard poodles are between shows, agrees to help. Making it a full-on family affair, her new husband, Sam, and her sons, Davey and Kevin, come along to help with the refurbishment. While Frank, Sam, and Mel clear branches and toss out dusty old ornaments, Davey and Frank go out into the woods and find something a little hard to discard. Nestled in the snow is the body of a vagrant, frozen to death after being knocked out by a blow to the head. Local police, who know the deceased only as Pete, tell Frank that Abel Haney allowed Pete to live in an abandoned shack on the Holiday Home property. Melanie had better find out quickly who Pete was and, more important, how he died, if Frank’s going to open his Christmas Tree Farm before the Fourth of July.
Melanie’s adventure in winter wonderland provides a welcome break from her usual tales, which stick doggedly to show-pooch settings.