"The Diva Cooks a Goose" by Krista Davis
Berkley Prime Crime, 290 pp., $7.99 (paperback only)
Reviewed by David Marshall James
Pour a cloud of miniature marshmallows on top of your steaming mug of hot chocolate, dip in a peppermint stick, and-- if you're really feeling festive-- liven up your libation with some Bailey's and Frangelico.
Sink into your favorite chair, preferably before a blazing Yuletide hearth. Then savor Virginia author Krista Davis's fourth Domestic Divas mystery, set in snowy, well-decorated Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia, beginning on Christmas Day and ending on New Year's Eve.
Davis transports the action from her protagonist's, Sophie Winston's, neighborhood to that of Sophie's brother, George; his wife, Laci; and their daughter, Jen.
Whoa, Rudolph! Did we say "Sophie's neighborhood"? Naughty us. It's Natasha Winston's neighborhood as far as Sophie's domestic diva rival is concerned.
How Sophie can remain so calm about her ex-husband, Mars, marrying the would-be arbiter of worldwide good taste is a mystery in and of itself.
The two do share a history dating back to childhood, and Sophie did land in swell digs post-divorce, and she does have a loving doggie and kitty, as well as a loving police detective beau. Her plate is full, and not just of the goose she cooked for Christmas Eve dinner, en famille.
Speaking of which, Sophie has her hands full with her brother's family, her sister Hannah, and her Mom and Dad, all of whom are congregating for Christmas and staying over for the ensuing mayhem.
However, Laci's parents are not as happily wed as Sophie's, George's, and Hannah's. The plot branches out from their marital discord, taking in two of George's neighborhing families.
Think Hatfields and McCoys. Capulets and Montagus. The Grinch and the Who's. Yukon Cornelius and the Abominable Snowman.
Some authors force a tepid plot into seasonal proceedings, tack on a re-used bow, and call it a Christmas mystery.
Her story develops precisely because it's Christmastime. Re-gifting figures mightily into her plot.
Even Natasha-- who plays more of a supporting role in this novel-- comes to regret her pink-and-turquoise light display. Pink and turquoise? They're the "new" red and green, dahlings.
Davis has obviously taken as much time crafting this present to her readers as Natasha would expend creating a "giftscape." Quaff this cup of holiday cheer and have a Very Merry!
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SUPPER CLUB PICK
My after-school snack was a sacred ritual. I sat on the carpet in my parents' bedroom at a low table, the television turned to "I Dream of Jeannie," and ate a peanut butter and honey sandwich cut into neat squares. I wasn't fussy about crusts. I just loved the sticky pairing of creamy peanut butter with syrupy golden sweetness drizzled from a honey bear in diagonals across the soft white bread. Nothing else--save for maybe apples and peanut butter in a pinch--could have made for as sweet an