Wednesday Sampler: Christmas Is Murder by Carolyn Arnold
December 24, 2015
In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle has launched a new series featuring writing samples from some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Wednesday’s Sampler is an excerpt from Christmas is Murder, a cozy mystery from Carolyn Arnold.
As one reviewer said: No matter who you are, something dramatic always seems to happen during the holidays. Whether it be family drama or some sort of catastrophe, it seems like the universe waits until that exact moment when you have deemed it The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, to wreak havoc. In Christmas is Murder the McKinley Series Book Sever, Carolyn Arnold plays on that exact theme by placing her characters right in the middle of such a time as this.
Do you love Christmas and cozy mysteries?
“Christmas is Murder” is a touching–and comical–seasonal cozy. It will have you wanting to stoke the fire and top up that glass of eggnog.
Albany’s the perfect image of a winter wonderland, and Sean and Sara’s friend Jimmy is going to be Santa Claus for the upcoming Christmas parade. The trees and decorations have been selected and the gifts have been purchased. The season has truly cast its magical spell–until Sean and Sara’s neighbors die in a horrible house fire.
While the fire department ruled holiday-related hazards as the cause, Sara suspects there’s more to it. Her determination to find the truth has her and Sean toeing the line between what’s legal and what’s not.
As they sort out fact from fiction, the McKinleys make the final decision about whether or not they should open a private investigation firm.
“Sara.” Sean became motionless, and speechless, when his eyes fell on what was before them.
“The Wilsons?” She took one step, but Sean held her arm.
“You can’t go in there, darling.” The desperation in his eyes said it all—it wasn’t safe or practical.
“Excuse me. We’re going to have to ask you leave.” A uniformed man approached them. The label on his hat read Chief.
“Are they okay? Was anybody hurt?”
A voice came over his radio and indicated the blaze was coming under control.
The chief nodded to Sara and gestured for them to move back.
For some reason, even though he answered in the affirmative, with a nod, she sensed it had more to do with directing them to the side than denoting good news.
“Who are you two?”
“I’m—” Her voice was shaky and Sean took over.
“We’re the McKinleys, from next door. Sean and Sara.”
“What caused the fire?” Sara asked.
“This time of year we get a lot of calls.” He gestured to the Christmas lights that dangled from the Wilsons’ eaves like eerie shadows, carrying haunting memories of happier times.
“The Wilsons, are they—”
Plumes of smoke exited the front window. The firemen kept spraying.
The chief’s crease lines took on sharp edges. His mouth fell into a straight line. “I’m sorry to say this, but they didn’t make it.”
“Oh, darling.” Sara turned toward Sean and he held her tight.
“What happened?” Sean asked.
“They were both found in the living room. They were rushed away immediately, but the call came en route to the hospital. For what it matters, I don’t think they suffered. I think they were asleep on the couch when the fire started and died from smoke inhalation.”
Even though her back was to the man, Sara sensed his heart was broken over the situation. She imagined his gaze on her.
“Well, you don’t need all the details.” His gravelly voice confirmed her suspicion.
“I assume there will be an investigation into the cause of the fire,” Sean said.
Sara straightened and turned to face the chief, her shoulder remained tucked under Sean’s armpit, their torsos as close as possible with their bulky winter coats.
“It’s standard protocol.”
“Did they have any family? People—”
“Mrs. McKinley, arrangements for the notification is being made as we speak.”
“We just met them this afternoon.” The statement fell as a guilty confession, remorse over not knowing them underscored every word.
“They have a daughter who lives in town.”
“Please, what is her name?”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t tell you that.”
Sean tightened his hold on Sara. “We understand, Chief—I’m sorry, what is your name?”
“We got it,” a voice called over the radio.
The men, who were spraying the front, turned the water off and lowered the hose. The smell of fire clung to the air. The snowfall that had earlier cast a magical spell had taken on the weight of loss and sadness.