It’s Christmas in Dickens Junction, a bizarre town in Oregon where Charles Dickens is venerated in almost every way, shape and form. Simon Alastair, owner of the local bookshop, finds his sleuthing skills called into action when a mysterious stranger arrives in town and shortly afterwards is murdered, his body presented as part of a Dickens pageant.
As the town – and the murder – attracts more attention, notably from followers of Ayn Rand’s Objectivist movement, Simon finds himself distracted by the handsome Zach, a reporter who is just as determined as Simon to find the murderer. But the murderer hasn’t finished their work – and the body count begins to rise…
This is the first in the Dickens Junction mysteries, featuring Simon and Zach, each based on a Dickens novel. The second novel in the series, The Edwin Drood Murders, was reviewed by me a couple of months ago and it was rather good, marred by my complete lack of knowledge of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. It has distinctive characters, a clever plot, it demonstrated some real potential for the series.
To be honest, I think it’s probably best that I read that one first as I didn’t enjoy this one as much. The central characters are engaging – as I mentioned last time, it makes a pleasant change for there to be homosexual main characters that are written so matter-of-factly, rather than making their sexuality the focus of the story.
But this time, the mystery didn’t feel as clever. The misdirection attempted was fairly slight and the motive comes completely out of nowhere (unless I missed something) and the characters didn’t seem as clearly defined as before. It may be due to the fact that I’ve been reading in small chunks due to workload over the last few weeks. But it wasn’t an issue with some other books… this one just didn’t really grab me. And the parallels with the original Christmas Carol seemed fairly slight.
So overall, I didn’t enjoy this as much as The Edwin Drood Murders – I’d recommend starting with that one.