Christmas is a time for family togetherness, so it figures that this first collaboration between bestselling Mary Higgins Clark (Before I Say Good-Bye, p. 404, etc.) and her daughter Carol (Twanged, 1998, etc.) tosses together so many regulars from both authors that there’s barely room for the crooks. And a hapless pair of perps they are. Spurned heir C.B. Dingle is wrongly convinced that chain mortician Luke Reilly persuaded his late uncle to leave most of his fortune to a gardening league. His dimwitted partner, painter Petey Commet, seems to have sucked too much lead from the chartreuse he used on one of Luke’s reception rooms. When they kidnap Luke in revenge, grabbing his part-time driver Rosie Gonzalez as well, and stash them on a houseboat moored in Edgewater, New Jersey, while they wait for a million-dollar ransom, these two hopeless duffers go up against not only Luke’s family—his world-famous mystery writer wife Nora and his shamus daughter Regan—but against lottery-winning ex–cleaning lady Alvirah Meehan and her husband Willy as well. The mother-and-daughter authors—who are so obviously on the same wavelength that even though the abduction plot and some of the dialogue seem recycled from their earlier books, everything blends together in seamless inconsequence—produce a holiday rout for the forces of junior-league evil undisturbed by any hint of real villains, real detectives, or real suspense.
Admire the shipshape carpentry as the preposterous story purrs along while still delivering fewer thrills than most fruitcakes.