A Montana shop owner copes handily with all the challenges of the holiday season.
Jewel Bay has escaped the irrelevance that plagues many rural towns in America’s heartland by creating a rustic shoppers’ paradise in its picturesque center. And the spirit of cooperation among the crafters and artisans who run the local shops is never stronger than during the Christmas season, when shopkeepers help each other decorate their doors and self-appointed elves string lights and decorate the streets in between. So it’s not surprising that Erin Murphy (Treble at the Jam Fest, 2017, etc.), owner of the venerable Murphy’s Glacier Mercantile, has chosen Christmas Eve for her upcoming wedding to longtime beau Adam Zimmerman. But the season’s shine dims when Merrily, the black sheep of the Thornton clan, returns hoping to make a fresh start. Her parents, Walt and Taya, have other ideas and tell their daughter to get lost. Erin tries to befriend the dejected Merrily and feels rebuffed when she fails to turn up at Erin’s annual cookie exchange. But Merrily isn’t snubbing Erin. She’s dead, as her childhood friend Greg Taylor learns when he finds her corpse at an old schoolhouse on her parents’ property. Busy as she is, Erin can’t help nosing around to figure out what Grinch would spoil the spirit of the season by strangling a repentant sinner with a string of holiday lights.
Budewitz’s finely drawn characters, sharp ear for dialogue, and well-paced puzzle make Jewel Bay a destination for every cozy fan.