Berkley Prime Crime
Who killed the corpse in the castle coffin?
This, the second book of the Merry Muffin Mystery series, begins with a brief introduction to the series by covering what has happened previously very quickly and succinctly, not distracting from the current book but bringing it into the present. Merry Wynter is currently making her home in Wynter Castle, which she has inherited, and sharing it with her friends, Pish, who is helping her with her finances and with promoting the castle she feels she needs to sell, and Shilo, her gypsy-model friend.
The story opens with Merry going to the next town, a town that is on the verge of collapse, to find a party shop to buy supplies for the upcoming party Pish is helping her arrange. Since it happens to be around Halloween, she has decided on a non-ghoulish Halloween theme. She is completely dismayed by the dismal town and the party shop, but does buy some supplies, even after she is told the warehouse is haunted. Is it?
To confuse matters more, a "cousin" has appeared at the castle and cousin Cranston is determined that he should have his share of the inheritance. Merry is working on the possibility of fraud with the help of Pish, plotting a way to get a DNA sample, while planning the Halloween party. Here we find characters of all kinds, including the 'security' hired to make sure only invited guests get in and other locals to serve the guests. Many of the invited guests are wealthy and in a position to buy the castle if they want it. These New York elite make up the majority of the guests
It isn't long before Merry notices that there are too many guests and on checking finds that several people have been admitted under the same names. While trying to make sense of the football team, who have been included (are they really a football team or is that their costumes?) and others who are acting suspicious, the party begins to unravel. Part of the decor includes a coffin complete with a mannequin, but surprise! There is a body in there, and it belongs to one of the uninvited guests. Who is he, and why is he at the party? No one seems to know who he is, or they aren't telling. When a good friend is arrested for the murder, Merry goes into full investigative mode. With more and happier surprises in store before the mystery is solved, Merry is unsure about selling the castle. She feels she is a part of the community and has made many friends in Autumn Vale. Not everyone is prepared for Merry to sell, it remains to be seen what the outcome will be. Victoria Hamilton writes a great cozy murder mystery and I'm sure there will be more adventures in store.