Murder at Mistletoe Manor reminds me of an ugly Christmas sweater – it shows up right around the holidays and is so repulsive that you can’t help but mock it. But this book sums up 2016 pretty well: if you managed to make it to the end, all you can do is laugh and shake your head. And I can honestly say that I haven’t laughed so hard in a while.
Murder at Mistletoe Manor
Author: Holly Tierney-Bedord
Version: Amazon Kindle
“Klarinda Snow is the innkeeper of a beautiful, historic bed and breakfast in Windy Pines, Idaho. Guests come to Mistletoe Manor to escape from their troubles while enjoying the scenic mountain town.
“When all seven rooms of the inn get booked on a Tuesday night in December, Klarinda is excited about having so much business, but a little confused as well. After all, her inn normally isn’t a destination hotspot.
“The guests have barely settled in before strange things begin happening. Is this the most accident-prone group of travelers ever, or is someone out for revenge?”
Let’s start with the character development and dialogue, since that was the first thing I mentioned during our club discussion. The conversations are stiff, unrealistic, and practically childish. I mean, one of the people actually wastes the time halfway through this debacle to say, “I’m sorry. Death always makes me sad.” No shit – that’s just so deep, y’know? Like… wow.
The characters themselves are very two-dimensional and pile on the stereotypes. In fact, I actually sent a text to the friend of mine who told me about this travesty of a book not long after all of the characters were introduced saying how hilarious it would be if the killer turned out to be the one character who fit the Scooby Doo villain stereotype – I mean, obviously if a lot of attractive and popular people are dying, the only culprit must be the dumpy, frumpy nerd, right? And, lo and behold, Dump McFrump is the one who did it. And it seems that no sort of planning went on at all during the writing process to ensure the characters made sense and that their behavior and knowledge was continuous with what we’d been told about them. For example, we are told that the staff has worked together for two years, and they all have apartments within or around the inn, so they’re pretty much living together. Not only that, but they mention at least a few times what good friends they are, and Klarinda herself even says she trusts them completely and that they’re all the family she has in all the world. And yet…
And yet they know nothing about one another. Klarinda, Myrtle, and Pierre (the chef, obviously, because all chefs have French names, even the ones in BFE Idaho B&Bs) have never thought to mention how old they are, where they came from, why Klarinda bought this inn, how she bought it, their families… nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.
Oh, and then we learn that Klarinda’s driving purpose for buying a B&B was that she thought it would be “a guy magnet.” Let me just reiterate this: a woman bought a bed and breakfast in the mountains of Idaho because she thought it would up her chances of meeting Mr. Right. First of all, I have never considered Idaho a premium vacation spot for anyone let alone single fellas. And secondly, how many heterosexual men between the ages of 30 and 40 do you know who go to B&Bs for their vacations???
And as for the business of running the B&B itself… it’s all a joke. Just one big, craptastic joke. Klarinda needs an attitude adjustment, because, quite frankly, a majority of the issues she had with her guests were ones that I just can’t fault them for being pissed about. The B&B itself is a seven-room inn with “Mistletoe” in the fucking title, right? So seven people show up, and Klarinda is immediately bent out of shape because she’s just not staffed or equipped to handle a full house. Not only that, but the guests arrive to find that at least one of the toilets doesn’t work, the plow is broken so the snow has covered the drive so completely that one of the guests actually ends up being dropped off at the entrance of the property and is forced to carry all of their own luggage into the inn, the fireplaces aren’t lit so it’s cold as hell in the dining room, and there are zero decorations up for the holiday season. Then Klarinda goes into the guests’ rooms for “turn-down service” while they are all in the dining room, and she does a lot less fluffing and flipping than she does digging through their coat pockets and bags. And when one of the guests asks for shampoo and conditioner, the staff get snarky about it and respond that they don’t provide such amenities… only to hand over some travel-sized containers a second later that Klarinda had stuffed under the counter for her own personal use.
If I stayed in such a place and got the sort of reception these guests did, I’d probably start killing people, too. Or at least one person.
And why by the powers of Grayskull do we have a character named Rod Showers in this book who must be referred to by his full name the entire time?? It sounds like the screen name of a mustachioed 1980s porn star… and damn it all if he’s not the friggin’ plumber, which leads to speculation at one point about whether or not one of the victims may have had her pipes poisoned by Rod Showers. I mean… come on. Come. On.
Okay, so let’s get past the shit characters to focus on the shit plot. So, murders are happening left and right, and Klarinda’s biggest immediate concern isn’t the loss of her guests or the damage to her reputation and her business… No. Of course not. Because she just bought new 500-thread count sheets for the bed, and the movement of the body is trailing the new duvet in blood. She gets past her PTSD (post-traumatic sheet disorder) just enough to begin ogling some of the male law enforcement officers literally over two dead bodies. Once we’re three or four victims in, one of the officers who eventually shows up on the scene notifies the staff that the deputy hasn’t been called in himself because he’s dealing with “real emergencies” – and color me surprised here to find out that Idaho is so friggin’ hardcore that murder ain’t no thang to them (I mean, I’ve never heard of someone coming up straight outta Boise, but maybe that’s just me). Local law enforcement dubs a poisoning, two adults drowning in a single tiny bathtub, and someone being literally smashed to death by a piece of furniture as accidents. And they have bigger issues to deal with than this sudden explosion of dead people at an otherwise rather sleepy B&B… like traffic accidents.
Once the law enforcement makes a more official and long-term appearance, things get no better. One potential suspect literally shovels out a vehicle while an officer and Klarinda are both standing right there – and then gets in and drives away! And keep in mind this is during blizzard conditions, so this suspect didn’t squeal out of the drive; no, they had to dig that vehicle out, then creep out of the parking spot in reverse, then slowly creep down the driveway and away down the road. At which point the officer – who had, again, been standing there the entire time – makes it known that he didn’t bother to make a note of the make, model, or plate number and basically pulls a Fox and Hound routine of “Which way did he go, George? Which way did he go?”
And the murders. My god, these things are like something from cartoons. A tub falls on someone, and one of the victims is actually smashed to death when an armoire falls on them – in fact, this latter victim is crushed so completely that juices ooze out all over the floor, like a shoe on a cockroach. This could totally happen. Of course it could. In a world where the armoire has ACME stamped on the back of it and all that’s left of the perpetrator is a trail of slowly-settling dust leading off into the distance and the echo of their cheery voice crying, “Beep beep!”
I can’t recommend this book to anyone. Not anyone. Not children. Not adults. Not pets. Not tardigrades in space. No one. But if you are still considering reading it, I’ll give you one other option before you dedicate yourself to this folly: save yourself the dollar and turn on some Christmas music, walk over to the nearest wall, begin beating your head against it as hard as you can while someone tickles you for a couple of hours, and wait to pass out. That weird, light-headed, confused feeling you have upon waking up will be identical to the one you would have had if you’d spent any time at all reading this book.