Christmas time–and the murder is freaky! Weatherford, Texas, is Phyllis Newsom’s hometown, and her house is decorated to the nines for the holidays—and for a very fancy home tour: the Jingle Bell Tour.
A group of retired senior women live as tenants in Phyllis Newsom’s lovely home. They share good times and good food, as well as getting involved in the local goings-on. There is a wedding in the making, too, in this fifth outing in the Fresh-Baked Mystery series, for tenant Eve. Trying to juggle baking and decorating and wedding plans, protagonist Newsom is really in over her head this time. Of course, the best-laid plans of bakers and women are definitely sidetracked, almost right from the beginning.
Jingle Bell Tour founder and planner Georgia Hallerbee talked Newsom into joining the lineup for the tour of homes for the holidays. But she isn’t talking at all when she is knocked dead on Newsom’s doorstep, coshed with a gingerbread ceramic decoration. The plans for the wedding shower on Christmas Eve, for the baking of dozens of tasty gingerbread cookies (a yummy recipe is included) and trying to enjoy the holidays all come to a screeching halt.
Washburn does a good job of keeping all her characters in hand and in planning her somewhat complicated plot. The characters have grown and been fleshed out well since the first book in the series (A Peach of a Murder). So many series include extras as part of the books—recipes, household hints, trivia, etc.—but Washburn does great at keeping the recipes in line with the plot. Although I haven’t tried any of the recipes in The Gingerbread Bump-Off, I have tried others in earlier books, and they were tasty. The Dark Delicious Chocolate Cashew Cookies offered here are very tempting.
This is a light-hearted, comfortable read, and a fun series, the kind you want to keep circulating among your friends. If you are new to the books, I strongly suggest you start at the beginning and enjoy all the mysteries, and recipes, that Phyllis Newsom and her buddies have to offer.