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The Merchant of Menace (1998)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0380794497, Mass Market Paperback)Quintessential mom in tennis shoes Jane Jeffrey is once again thrust into a murder investigation, but this time the murderer is very close to home indeed. In The Merchant of Menace, the 10th of the series by Jill Churchill, Jane finds herself in the midst of the Christmas rush and hosting two celebrations back-to-back: neighborhood caroling party one evening and a cookie exchange the following day. The two gatherings are meant to bring the community together, but when a TV reporter is found dead during the singing, it becomes obvious that at least one of the neighbors is harboring something besides goodwill towards men. As Jane and her coconspirator Shelly explore just who might have reason to shove someone off a roof, their sleepy suburb (Chicago is the ostensible nearby city, but the setting could be anywhere there is snow in December) suddenly steams with secrets.
Churchill has done well with this cozy series in which each title is a play on words of a more illustrious piece of literature. The Merchant of Menace fits into the mold: a witty and gentle dose of murder and mayhem coupled with a wry appreciation for the terrors of suburban parenting (teaching teenagers to drive, helping with the homework, meeting the prospective in-laws) and middle-aged romance. The travails of Shylock are perhaps too oppressive for most Christmas readers, but The Merchant of Menace is certainly suitable for passing around with the Christmas cookies and holiday punch. --K. Crouch
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 21 Apr 2011 21:59:09 -0400)
Widowed sleuth Jane Jeffry investigates the murder of a reporter who gate-crashed her Christmas caroling party in search of juicy scandals of suburban life. The list of suspects is a long one as the man was something of a muckraker.
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