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5++ stars for Christmas at Corbie Hall by Jo A. Hiestand #mystery #holidaymystery #bookreview

Title: Christmas at Corbie Hall

Author: Jo A. Hiestand

Genre: British Mystery, Holiday Mystery

Book Blurb:

Former police detective Michael McLaren is looking forward to spending Christmas at his grandfather's ancient Hall. Not only because it will be his first holiday with his grandfather and uncle, but also with his lady love, Melanie.

Everything seems perfect for the Scottish Highland getaway. Even Mother Nature is contributing snow, adding a festive and romantic overtone to the gathering. But McLaren’s holiday plan gets snowed under when a dead man is discovered outside his grandfather’s house--in circumstances similar to an older murder. And it’s not long before McLaren is asked to look into the previous death.

The victim was a drummer in a local pipe band. He also drummed at the Christmas market, where his body was found on a snowy, cold evening. The man found dead at the door of his grandfather’s house also played in a pipe band. Are the two murders connected? Or did their jobs at the bank have to do with their deaths?

Can McLaren wrap up the cases in time to unwrap Christmas gifts with Melanie? It’s a race against the calendar and weather if he wants the Day—and his future with her—to be merry and bright.

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My Review:

Feel like I have been reading McLaren mysteries for most of my life...that is how much a part of me this Northern Brit ex detective stone wall builder has become. This story is my fave of all that have come before. Without any doubt, this is the best McClaren ever written! The story will tick the boxes of so many favorite genres that it must have a wide appeal. You have Christmas in a castle. You have a murder mystery. You have a Christmas murder mystery. You have romance in a castle *at Christmas*.

The mystery is so well written that it keeps amateur sleuths guessing along with the main character. The characters are deep and full and rich and enjoyable to get to know. The continuity of the storyline is masterfully done and that is a rare ability in modern authors. I can count on one hand the number of authors that excel in continuity and now you can add Jo A. Hiestand to the list.

If you have been a fan of the Mike and Melanie relationship, then this book is a super duper must read. I will not spoil anything but if you have enjoyed this relationship, you must read this book. For me the combination of a great mystery, setting and the relationship arc make this an award winning kind of book. Just one of the best mysteries I have ever read. This is the finest McClaren mystery I have ever read. I cannot wait to read the next book of this series. Recommended to all fans of the McClaren mystery series. Recommended to those who love a good Christmas mystery. Recommended to those who enjoy Christmas in a Scottish castle.

My Rating: 5++ stars

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Author Biography:

Jo A. Hiestand is the author of two British mystery series. While this may not seem so unusual, Jo was born in -- and still lives in -- St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

To get around the technical difficulties dictated by living in one country and writing about another -- especially about police procedures and crime detection, of which she has no personal experience -- she travels to Britain every few years for research. It was on one such trip that she met English police Inspector Tony Eyre (now retired) who supplied police information for her first novel, "Death of an Ordinary Guy." Since then, two other English police officers have become close friends of hers and help with police procedure, catching American words that creep into her writing, and reading the novel manuscripts to eliminate police inaccuracies.

This is all well and good, but nothing beats hands-on experience for writing. Since one of her series features a team of police detectives from the Derbyshire CID and her other highlights an ex-cop who investigates cold cases on his own, Jo knew she'd either have to commit a crime to get first-hand police knowledge or enroll in a citizen's police academy course. The latter seemed safer, so she signed up through a St. Louis county's PD. It was there that she met future co-author police officer Paul Hornung. As Paul remembers their first ride-along, they talked more about writing than about police work. During several ride-alongs they established a bond through these two mutual interests; eventually they agreed to collaborate on books. They've done this with Paul supplying information, writing the fights scenes, and finally writing some of the chapters as one of the series characters. Writing together is definitely fun but sometimes a challenge. Neither knows specifically what the other person's chapter will be, as the storyline is never fully detailed to the other. This is so each can read the other's work with a fresh eye, untainted by "what I meant to say."

It must work, for best-selling British mystery writer Peter Lovesey says, "Immaculate research, attention to detail and an elegant style are the hallmarks of Jo Hiestand’s writing. An atmospheric novel (Horns of a Dilemma)."

Jo took a short respite from novel writing to try her hand with a play. Her contest-winning play "Teething Pains" was produced on stage in 2010. She flatly denies that her fear of dentistry was instrumental in selecting the subject.

Her love of writing, board games and music combines in "P.I.R.A.T.E.S.", the mystery-solving game that uses maps, graphics, song lyrics, and other clues to lead the players to the lost treasure. She also enjoys walking through the woods, playing guitar and harpsichord, her animals (pets as well as backyard wildlife), and reading.

Jo realizes she's living many authors' dreams. Who else has three police officers helping her commit murder?

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Reviewed by: Mr. N

1 Comment

Dec 05, 2023

Sounds great. I'll be looking up this book!

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