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The Christmas Carol Murders by Christopher…

The Christmas Carol Murders

by Christopher Lord

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i definitely appreciated how chock-full of literary references this book is - i mean, the theme itself is basically dickensian vs randian (ayn rand, that is) philosophy of community and charity. the town itself is set up as an homage to dickens and his ideas of giving back, directly in conflict with rand's virtues of selfishness and her ideas of creators. so that was an interesting tension and exploration. i also kind of liked getting to know the characters in this small town, although my favorite character was a visitor, george. i was less interested in the mystery, but that's typical for me and so might not be a reflection of the book, although i didn't feel like simon did much real sleuthing. still, i like the concept, found the characters interesting enough, enjoyed the small town feel, and wouldn't be opposed to reading more in the series. ( )
  elisa.saphier | Dec 8, 2015 |
In this storywe are introduced to Simon Alastair, who is the proprietor of a bookstore in the hamlet of Dickens Junction, near the Oregon coast. The town was founded by his grandfather as a tribute to Charles Dickens and the ideals he espoused in his literary works. Naturally, in the town center there is a statue of the author, and most of the businesses in the square have either Dickensian motifs or are named after one or another of the characters that Dickens brought to life. Simon's store is called Pip's Pages, the local inn is Bleak House and of course there is an Old Curiosity Shop.

Dickens Junction comes to life at Christmas, when there are several events that attract the tourists; the first of which is a series of tableaux commemorating selected scenes from A Christmas Carol. Many of the merchants in the square participate, but of late they have been pestered by a newcomer to town, Mervin Roark, who is representing a group called Marley's Enterprises. He is offering exorbitant amounts of money for the property in the environs of the square. He refuses to tell anyone what the purpose behind the purchases is. But Dickens Junction, like many places, is suffering greatly from the recession––or, as the merchants refer to it euphemistically, an economic downturn. Many could find security with this monetary offering. Before he has been in the town long he is dead, murdered in a Marleyesque fashion. Jacob Marley, who was Scrooge's business partner, is known to be as dead as a doornail. Roark is killed by a doornail. And his body is discovered at the Christmas Carol staging.

The next event is a competition for the best Dickensian village reconstruction, but this too is marred by the grotesque discovery of another body. The discussions about motive swing widely from the idea that someone who wants to preserve the village's way of life is on a rampage, to the notion that Marley Enterprises group has a subversive intent to do as much damage as possible. Simon feels that he is well placed to do some sleuthing on his hometown's behalf.

On the surface the story is about a murderous Christmas, there is an underlying comparison between the collectivist philosophy of some of Rand's books and the idea of a social conscience that Dickens espoused. Who should be first? The group or the individual? I came out on the side that it is the time of year for the lion to lie down with the lamb.

The story has a romantic subplot that is engaging. I did have to Google the definitions of certain fashion terms that Simon knew much better than I. There were the peplum jacket, the sock monkey PJ's and, finally, kitten heels. I didn't know cats had any.

( )
  Condorena | Apr 2, 2013 |
This was a nice light read for finals weeks. In Dickens Junction, Oregon, the legacy of Charles Dickens looms large. With Christmas approaching, Dickensian events are in full swing, until the typical holiday celebrations are slowed by murder. A man who has come to town to try to buy property for Marley Enterprises is found dead is found dead in the middle of the Christmas Carol tableaux. When Simon Alastair, owner of the local bookstore Pip's Pages, tries to solve the murder, he finds a puzzling connection with author Ayn Rand, whose philosophy centered on selfishness couldn't be different than that of Dickens. More murders follow before the pieces finally fall in place.

I was fascinated by Dickens Junction, by the role that literature played in the mystery, and by many of the supporting characters. The plot, which slowed occasionally, was always moved forward (usually by another murder). I would have liked a few more clues to make the resolution to the case seem less abrupt (although it is possible that I missed a few things in my finals week fog), but overall this was a nice cozy mystery. ( )
  porch_reader | Dec 15, 2012 |
First Line: No one was dead: to begin with.

Like everywhere else in the country Dickens Junction, Oregon, was hit hard by the economic crisis. Everyone is hoping that there will be lots of shoppers spending lots of money this Christmas season. Some business owners have already given up and left; others are hanging on by a thread.

The only exception to the rule is Simon Alastair, owner of the bookstore Pip's Pages. His great-grandfather and grandfather were timber barons and built the small town of Dickens Junction, basing it on many of the principles found in the writings of Charles Dickens. Although far from being a millionaire, Simon is comfortably well off and able to afford to stock his bookstore with only the titles of books he's read. (He admits that he doesn't much care for contemporary fiction, so don't beat a path to the door of Pip's Pages expecting to find a signed copy of Fifty Shades of Grey.)

The holiday season is a special time of year in Dickens Junction, and Simon ponders three things as he walks over to take part in the annual Christmas tableaux: (1) the stranger who's been visiting all the businesses on the square, (2) the sudden run on Ayn Rand titles in his shop, and (3) Zach, a handsome magazine reporter who's just come to town. The tableaux come to a screeching halt when the stranger is found dead-- hidden underneath a costume right in front of Simon.

Since the killer almost has to be one of Simon's friends and acquaintances, Zach decides to stay and persuades Simon to go around interviewing everyone to see who has an alibi and who doesn't. Simon doesn't need much encouragement: he cares deeply for the town and the people who live there, and he doesn't want harm to come to either. When a second murder occurs, it becomes even more important to find the killer before anyone else dies.

The Christmas Carol Murders is a good, solid beginning to the Dickens Junction mystery series. Simon is an interesting character who seems content to stay in his beloved small town rather than move out to create a life for himself in a city. This behavior has already cost him two long-term relationships, and it's also made him extremely leery of beginning anything with Zach. Simon often trades literary quips with his friend, George, and it's one of the highlights of the book--as are Simon's eccentric methods of running a bookstore.

The rest of Simon's friends and fellow business owners are a fine cast to draw from in future books, but I did find two or three things that blunted my enjoyment of the story. This, for all intents and purposes, is a cozy mystery, but the second murder is so gruesome that I became a bit queasy as I read the scene. (And I do have a strong stomach.) This is so unusual in a genre known for its offstage violence and lack of graphic depictions of blood and gore that it startled me.

The other two things that proved distracting for me both concerned the author's wealth of description. For the first quarter of the book almost every male character has his teeth described in some fashion. (Yes, I kept track.) It made me wonder if there were dentists in the author's family tree. Fortunately the toothsome portraits didn't continue throughout the book.

The other thing that proved distracting for me (and it may very well be a personal quirk of mine) concerned how each character was described when he or she made an appearance: age, build, coloring, detailed clothing inventory, type of makeup, how it was applied (or lack thereof)... it was just too much. Had the BBC's What Not to Wear come to Oregon's version of Cabot Cove? All this did was pull me away from a very good mystery.

Yes indeed, the mystery is a very good one with a surprising reveal at the end, and despite being distracted several times in this first book, I look forward to seeing what happens next in Dickens Junction-- and what happens to the characters living there. ( )
  cathyskye | Nov 11, 2012 |
Dickens Junction is a town near Astoria, Oregon, dedicated to the spirit of the author after whom it was named. So Bleak House is a popular bed-and-breakfast. Micawber’s Investments went under in the recent financial crisis. The town’s economy at least partly depends upon its appeal to tourists.

Simon Alastair is the somewhat wealthy scion of the founders of the town. He’s also the gay owner of Pip’s Pages, a bookstore stocked only with books he’s read and can therefore recommend to his customers. When I learned that his last two partners left him to live in a larger metropolitan area, I could only think what fools they must’ve been. I would’ve remained a Junxonian.

On the day deep in the holiday season when the residents of the town present their annual tableaux in Dickens Square depicting various scenes from A Christmas Carol, two strangers show up. One is Zach Benjamin, a “model-handsome” reporter for Rainbows, a monthly gay and lesbian travel magazine, on an assignment to write a story about the charms of Dickens Junction.

When Simon asks him to stay at his house, Gad’s Hill Place, his friends, the town’s leading citizens, soon wonder if Simon and Zach are lovers. Simon is reluctant, though, to begin a relationship only to have the lure of big-city life end it once again and leave him alone with his hurt.

The other newcomer is the sinister Mervin Roark of Marley Enterprises. He goes about offering extravagant sums of money to all the owners of the Dickens Square commercial properties except Simon. If they should refuse to sell, he hints, Marley Enterprises will ruin them. Simon and his friends can’t help but wonder if somebody wishes to take over the town and destroy it and their quaintly Dickensian way of life.

When, that same day, the murders begin, Zach convinces Simon he must discover who is committing them. Simon knows the townspeople better than the sheriff’s investigator does. He also has the most to lose if the villain in this story bulldozes Dickens Junction and replaces it with something radically different.

I greatly enjoyed reading this cozy mystery pitting “Atlas Shrugged versus A Christmas Carol. Rand versus Dickens. Buyers versus sellers. Community versus selfishness.”

The Christmas Carol Murders is Christopher Lord’s first novel in a series of Dickens Junction mysteries. I’ll rush to read his second. I’d like to return to Dickens Junction as soon as Mr. Lord makes it possible for me to do so. The next witty conversation involving the exquisitely tasteful Simon, Zach, and Simon’s friend George Bascomb will alone be worth the price of admission.

(As originally reviewed on Rainbow Book Reviews. Please visit http://www.rainbowbookreviews.com for other reviews that may be of interest.) ( )
  RonFritsch | Nov 1, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0985323604, Paperback)

It's the holiday season in Dickens Junction, Oregon. Local bookstore owner Simon Alastair is getting ready for the community's annual celebration of Charles Dickens's well-known story. But when a mysterious stranger shows up in the Junction and is murdered hours later, Simon begins to suspect that his little community has been targeted for destruction by a shadowy organization. With the support of Zach, a dashing young magazine reporter, Simon decides to investigate the crime himself. When a second murder follows, Simon must confront the worst questions of all: which of his friends and business associates is a ruthless murderer? And why is everyone suddenly reading Ayn Rand?

The Christmas Carol Murders is the first of an exciting new cozy mystery series combining the atmosphere of a classic Agatha Christie puzzle, the deft touch of Charlotte MacLeod, a hint of Oscar Wilde's humor, and the literary spirit of the great Charles Dickens.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:06 -0400)

"It's the holiday season in Dickens Junction, Oregon. Local bookstore owner Simon Alastair is getting ready for the community's annual celebration of Charles Dickens's well-known story. But when a mysterious stranger shows up in the Junction and is murdered hours later, Simon begins to suspect that his little community has been targeted for destruction by a shadowy organization. With the support of Zach, a dashing young magazine reporter, Simon decides to investigate the crime himself. When a second murder follows, Simon must confront the worst questions of all: which of his friends and business associates is a ruthless murderer?"--P. [4] of cover.… (more)

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