Monday, November 7, 2011

Murder Trims the Tree: a Gertie Johnson Christmas Mystery by Deb Baker

How would you prefer to spend Christmas, in jail or doing community service? Gertie and her group of investigators, The Trouble Busters, naturally chose to do community service. The Trouble Busters, possibly considered to be The Trouble Makers by the judge, is a group of three "older" women who have been charged with obstructing justice. Living with her 92 year old mother-in-law, Gertie has a secret motive for suggesting they do their time at the assisted living home in Trenary, in the Michigan Upper Peninsula. She is hoping Grandma, her late husband's mother, will like it so much she will elect to move there, especially since an old boy-friend Earl is there, so she has included in her group of forced volunteers her thorn-in-the-side mother-in-law, and Gertie's companion dog Fred, a German Shepherd. An ex-police dog, he is easily the most capable member of the investigators.

What they don't realize until already committed to volunteering there, is that Earl is a joker with a nasty bent. Being served "chocolate" candies that turn out to have a distinct odour that he "made" himself, it doesn't take long to decide this choice was not particularly a good idea. Unfortunately for this zany group, they are stranded there when they are cut off from escape by a huge snowstorm. The staff takes advantage of the new arrivals to take a day off, leaving them almost solely responsible for the residents and under the watch of the intolerable head of the facility, Nurse Shrank, a seriously scary thought.

With a mixed bag of equally zany residents including a former mailman deathly afraid of dogs, and Nurse Shrank, a nightmare waiting to happen, the fun begins. When Gertie discovers a body in the basement she knows this definitely was a bad idea. With the phone lines down and a raging snowstorm isolating them, they are stuck with whatever is going on. Definitely not where anyone wants to spend Christmas! Especially when almost everyone falls into a deep sleep after lunch, including the staff and Fred. Deb Baker has concocted a very unusual and funny holiday mystery with her group of protagonists. This novella can be read quickly and the antics of the characters will entertain. How the inmates of the assisted living pull off their stunts as well as cotton on to what is going on that shouldn't be at Applegate, better known as Hellsgate by Gertie, is quirky yet intelligent. I enjoyed this romp of a mystery and the "volunteer" group. I must admit to the fact that this is my first, but not my last, visit to Gertie Johnson's life.

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