Review: A Holly Jolly Murder by Joan Hess

Title: A Holly Jolly Murderholly-jolly-murder

Author: Joan Hess

Publisher: St Martin’s Minotaur (1997)

ISBN: 978-0-312-34916-5

The 12th of 17 Claire Malloy books is, as the name might suggest, a Christmas themed novel. In the days leading up to the holiday, bookstore owner Claire is invited to a winter solstice event by a customer who is also a Druid. However, before the sun rises a man is discovered dead in his home and the Druids start behaving oddly and pointing fingers at each other.I’ve not read any of this series or Hess’ other books before so I don’t know if it’s a representative sample of her writing. Regardless, as the only example I’ve come across, it left me with that meh feeling that only an average book can produce. All I can really say is that reading it passed some time.

These days it probably qualifies as a short book at 270-odd pages but, for me, it still managed to drag a bit because there wasn’t a lot happening. I’m pretty sure I could edit out 50 pages without impacting the story at all just by removing the repetitive passages along the lines of “I got my keys and drove to the store and did some dusting and some thinking and then I drove over to see Malthea…”

I didn’t find Claire Malloy to be a particularly interesting protagonist. She’s quite passive, a whingerand I really never bought into the premise that a community wary of strangers would almost universally trust Claire, whom none of them had before, with all of their secrets. I understand it had to be done to advance the plot; I just never believed it in the context of the story. In the cosy books that I like there is generally a less tenuous link between the amateur sleuth and the investigation than was the case here. Also, apart from Claire’s teenage daughter Caron, the other characters were very under-developed and I couldn’t summon up much interest in which of them might have committed the murder.

My rating 2.5/5

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One Response to Review: A Holly Jolly Murder by Joan Hess

  1. Louise says:

    While I don’t know this series and haven’t read any of the books, I know the feeling you describe when reading a mediocre or less than mediocre book. Unfortunately, sometimes I feel like ALL the books I pick are just mediocre or less….but right now I think my picks are at least mediocre or above. But it has been a long time since I read a book I really liked.


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