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A Carol for a Corpse    by Claudia Bishop order for
Carol for a Corpse
by Claudia Bishop
Order:  USA  Can
Prime Crime, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

A Claudia Bishop mystery is always fun. In A Carol for a Corpse, the Quilliam sisters who run the Inn at Hemlock Falls are finding the festive season less than jolly. After a series of financial crises, it seemed as if the Inn was on an even keel. However, authors excel in throwing their hapless characters into turmoil; and Quill, who runs the business end (Meg is the chef), is once again facing financial disaster. Despite the quality of their establishment, its storybook setting, and Meg's culinary artistry, the Inn is in the red; and the bank is threatening draconian measures.

Enter Mr. Albert McWhirter, auditor and accounting expert sent by the bank. Humourless and Spartan, he is not to be appeased by Quill's loyal staff or enticed by Meg's cuisine. Even so, Quill herself is optimistic. She has achieved a coup by negotiating a lucrative contract with hard-headed magnate Zeke Kingsfield ('Call me 'Hammer''), and is dreaming of business success. Her optimism is short-lived, however. Kingsfield dies in a skiing accident, and his equally hard-headed widow is threatening a lawsuit that will ruin the Inn.

Ignoring McWhirter's disapproval – he has criticized Quill for wasting her time on activities not related to the Inn (e.g. sleuthing) – she and Meg begin their own investigation. There are indications that Kingsfield's death was murder rather than accident; and since the police do not seem too interested, it is up to the sisters to discover the truth.

As always, Bishop's romp involves a host of quirky characters and interesting sub-plots that add to the mix rather than detracting from the main plot-line. Quill must contend with her volatile sister (Meg's weapon of choice is normally a sauté pan, but she is enlarging her armoury), anxious staff, a town council seduced by Kingsfield's promises, a baby left on her doorstep, and Max the dog's mishaps, as well as a mysterious murderer and threat of financial ruin. In the end, the sisters prevail and the Inn is once again saved – for a time at least. Bishop juggles myriad characters and events with deceptive ease, creating a frothy entertainment with serious themes. As a bonus, she also provides directions for creating Christmas ornaments in addition to some of Meg's recipes.

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