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'TWAS THE BITE BEFORE CHRISTMAS
by Kelley Lee Charles
Avon, October 1970
362 pages
$6.99
ISBN: 0060732288


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

It's Christmas time in Maine, and Jack Field has his annual holiday cold, his personal nemesis. But this cold doesn't prevent him from tagging along when his fiancee, Dr Jamie Cutter, is called to the scene of a presumed accidental death. The housemaid has fallen down a flight of stairs, and broken her pretty little neck.

Field is the one who notices the anomalies, and makes it into a homicide, much against the wishes of the local law enforcement who have no desire to get into a homicide investigation centered on one of the wealthiest families in town. Too bad.

Jack's inquiries lead him to the Russian Mafia, where nobody really wants to go. Then there is the missing professor, who sometimes turns up where he shouldn't be, but right now is definitely not where he is supposed to be. What's his connection to the missing jewelry? Why are the police so certain that the killer is the maid's boyfriend? Just because he spent time in jail for killing his first wife doesn't automatically mean he killed the maid? Does it?

Jack is still running the kennels, and giving his readers lots of tips on how to train dogs. This time around, he has help from some superbly-trained Doberman pinschers, Max and Fritz, who were the guard dogs at the Bright mansion -- where the maid was and the jewelry wasn't.

There is also a sub-plot featuring the dogs and a young man named Tim (son of the boyfriend of the maid), who needs a kidney. There is also an interesting tie-in with the Underground Railroad and Jack's foster son Leon. This is a Christmas book, so most of the news will be good.

Once again, Kelley has given us a good mystery, with interesting characters and a plot that is no less believable than most anything else out there. Like Jamie, I'm not sure he's ever really going to get married, but time will tell. The dog training tips are usually presented non-didactically, in ways that further the telling of the story. All in all, it's a good holiday read -- or one to be saved for the dog days of summer (sorry, I couldn't resist) when it's too hot out and reading about snow and cold will be a pleasant relief.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, May 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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