A special Christmas story with Angie, Octo-Cat, and Paisley coming as part of a special collection this holiday season!
Molly Fitz – MEOWY CHRISTMAS MAYHEM
It’s Angie’s first Christmas as a pet owner, and she can’t wait to celebrate with Octo-Cat, Paisley, and Nan. All it takes is a little finely-crafted trickery to get her crabby tabby into the local pet supply store for a special photo opportunity with Santa. Unfortunately, the jolly old soul is found dead in the stock room before he ever gets the chance to say “cheese.” Angie and her motley crew of sidekicks need to work fast to find the culprit and prevent any further suspicious holiday slaying… Otherwise, the most wonderful time of the year could end up becoming the most murderous season Blueberry Bay has ever seen.
Lee Strauss – MURDER BY PLUM PUDDING
There’s nothing more fun than a festive holiday dinner party and Ginger Reed, the former Lady Gold, has Hartigan House decorated and the gramophone playing. Dressed in her finest Parisian low-waisted gown, feather-topped tiara, and T-strapped Italian leather shoes, Ginger is ready to host the delectable event.
It’s a jolly good time, until someone chokes on the pudding.
Is it an accident or is it murder? And can Ginger unravel the mystery before the church bells ring and Christmas Day dawns?
Karen MacInerney – SLAY BELLS RING
It’s Christmastime on Dewberry Farm, and homesteader Lucy Resnick is busy bundling mistletoe bunches and cedar swags for the Buttercup Christmas Market when a neighbor’s houseguest keels over right next to her peach orchard. Was it a stray bullet from a hunter that took him out? Or did a guest at the fancy ranch next door decide to scratch somebody off his or her Christmas list? It’s up to Lucy to unwrap the mystery… before the holiday killer strikes again.
CeeCee James – CHRISTMAS AT BAKER STREET
In this Baker Street spin-off, Oscar and Cecelia find themselves and the guests snowed in this Christmas holiday. What should be all sugar cookies and hot cocoa takes a drastic turn when one of the guests turns up cold—as in stone cold dead. With no help in sight, the two hope to find the killer before anyone else gets iced out, including them.
Nancy Warren – CAT’S PAWS AND CURSES
In this classic closed room mystery, someone is murdered during a knitting class. But how was it possible? Lucy Swift and her band of undead knitters must catch the culprit before there’s a second Christmas catastrophe!
Addison Moore – CHRISTMAS FUDGE FATALITY
My name is Lottie Lemon, and I see dead people. Okay, so I rarely see dead people, mostly I see furry creatures of the dearly departed variety, aka dead pets, who have come back from the other side to warn me of their previous owner’s impending doom.
The holidays have arrived and the Jolly Holly Tree Lot is hosting a special event that has the entire town bustling to get a picture with the jolly old elf himself. And I’m just as anxious as anyone to get to the front of the line, but that body I stumble upon threatens to take the joy right out of the season.
Read an Excerpt
Hi, my name’s Angie Russo, and I can talk to animals. Yes, talk to them and understand when they talk back. Now before you write me off as some crazy person, let me tell you that I never asked for this special ability of mine.
In fact, it took me quite by shock… Um, literally.
That’s right. My strange power first surfaced when I got electrocuted by a crummy old coffee maker. It happened at the firm where I used to work as a paralegal, right in the middle of a will reading. And when I awoke from that zap, I found a striped cat sitting on my chest and making some pretty mean jokes at my expense.
As soon as I realized the voice was coming from him and he realized that I could understand what he said, that cat recruited me to help solve the murder of his late owner.
Well, we solved it all right, and then many more crimes after that. In fact, the two of us now have our own private investigation firm, which my mom and my nan have rather unfortunately dubbed Pet Whisperer P.I.
I don’t want anyone to know my secret, so we pretend it’s just a marketing gimmick. Still, we haven’t had any paying clients since opening, and the cheesy name could very well be the reason for it.
We’re not giving up, though.
Nobody’s hired us directly, but we still manage to stumble into fresh cases on a near monthly basis—from murder to embezzlement and everything in between, we find the bad guys of Blueberry Bay and make sure they don’t get away with their crimes.
And as nice as it would be to get paid for the services we provide, my cat’s trust fund covers all our expenses and then some, including the schmancy New England manor house we call home. The property belonged to Octo-Cat’s previous owner—yeah, the murdered one—and he wasn’t willing to give it up to live in my low-budget rental, so, well, here we are.
Octo-Cat’s full name is Octavius Maxwell Ricardo yada yada yada… Fulton Russo, Esquire. Seriously, the guy has like eight names, thus the shortened moniker. He has his own iPad, only drinks Evian, and is pretty much spoiled in every single way possible. Still, I love the guy and wouldn’t trade him for the world.
We also live with Nan, my eccentric grandmother who happens to be a former Broadway actress, one who refuses to put her glory days behind her. A few months ago, she adopted a sweet little tri-color Chihuahua from the local animal shelter and dubbed the tiny dear Paisley. We all had a rough go at first, but now Octo-Cat and Paisley are good friends—probably because it’s quite easy for him to boss around a dog that’s less than half his size.
Just further proof of his diva catittude.
Nan, for her part, certainly doesn’t help matters by playing right into his paw. For instance, last Christmas Octo-Cat and I put in a brief appearance at our extended family gathering, then headed home to watch old movies on TV until bedtime. This year, Nan has insisted we whip out the elaborate advent calendar she designed during her community wood-working class.
And there aren’t small gifts or chocolates waiting for us inside, either. That would be far too ordinary for my whacky grandmother.
As Nan explains it, each tiny door has a rolled-up paper scroll behind it, and each paper scroll has a whole “experience” outlined for the day. This means we are celebrating Christmas proper for twenty-five whole days, and I’m already exhausted just looking at the giant three-dimensional calendar—let alone thinking about what might be waiting for us inside…
* * *
My nan never turned down any excuse to live large, so naturally she had a special fondness for the holidays. This year, however, she’d taken her normal over-the-top nature to hilariously new heights.
And she’d dragged me right along with her.
“Now this is the life,” Octo-Cat said, stretching his paws contentedly before him as he watched me and Nan flutter around the living room, hanging decoration after decoration with no end in sight.
Paisley stayed right at Nan’s heels wherever she went, which was good because Nan had the grace not to trip over the tiny ball of wagging fur. If she’d been glued to me, I would have definitely injured the both of us by now.
“Isn’t there something we can have the cat do?” I asked my grandmother while she rummaged about in a giant storage container made of bright pink plastic. “He’s enjoying this way too much.”
“Oh, so now I’m the cat?” The tabby rolled on his side and rubbed his head on the couch with apparent satisfaction. “You need to work on your insults, Angela. Oh, poor me. I’m God’s gift to the Earth. I’m sooo offended.” He let out a wicked chuckle, enjoying his role far too much.
“Please,” I begged Nan as I raised my hands in supplication. “I know you can’t understand him, but he needs to be put in his place.”
Nan pulled away from the garland she’d festooned with ribbons and tinsel, then shot me a mischievous grin. “Well, in that case, I suppose it wouldn’t do any harm to give him one of his gifts a bit early.”
“Gifts?” I cried. “No, don’t spoil him more than he already is.”
She just winked and climbed the stairs to her bedroom. When she returned, she carried a medium brown box with the telltale logo smile splattered across two of its sides.
“The box is part of the gift,” she explained, “but the main thing is what’s inside. I made it.” She opened the top flaps of the box and set it down beside Octo-Cat on the couch.
Of course, he shot me a quick smirk, then immediately jumped inside. “This box fits me perfect! How did you know, you old girl?” He purred as he padded whatever was inside in an effort to make himself even more comfortable, even more pampered.
“Hold on, you silly kitty!” Nan plucked him out of the box and put him back onto the couch cushion, then lifted a small red and green item from inside and held it up to show me. “What do you think, dear?”
I squealed, clapped, and then lifted my hands over my mouth—so enormous was my pleasure upon seeing the second part of my cat’s early Christmas present.
Nan wasted no time in pulling the handknit garment over Octo-Cat’s head and then pushed his front arms through. The gift was even better with him wearing it. Truly, it was the ugliest Christmas sweater I’d ever laid eyes on, and I was one hundred percent here for it.
Thick red and green stripes offset a neckline outfitted with at least a dozen little golden bells hanging from short yellow triangles of fabric. The body of the sweater also sported a knitted likeness of Octo-Cat wearing a Santa Hat and looking downright jolly.
The real live version of the cat in front of me looked nowhere near as happy. Half of his face was caught up in a grimace with one tiny tooth poking through. The other half was wide with horror, humiliation—really all the best holiday moods.
“Well, what does our guy think?” Nan asked, hugging the rankled tabby to her face and making squishy kissy sounds in his ear.
I wasted no time in making my reply, keeping my eyes on Octo-Cat the whole time. “He thinks this is wonderful. So wonderful that he’d love to have a special outfit to wear for every season,” I said, not breaking eye contact but having a very hard time maintaining a straight face.
“That can most certainly be arranged.” Nan kissed Octo-Cat again and then set him back on the couch.
“I hate you,” he ground out before stepping back into the box and turning in several tight circles before he finally settled in a position, one that faced away from us both. Despite the crick in my neck from hanging dozens of decorations overhead, I ended that night feeling incredibly nice.
If every day on Nan’s advent calendar held as much joy as this one, it would certainly be a Christmas to remember…