Rhys Bowen’s Christmas cozy, The Twelve Clues of Christmas, has a great premise: Lady Georgiana (a.k.a. Her Royal Spyness) is invited to serve as a hostess at a house party full of people who’ve paid for a traditional English holiday. We get to visit Tiddleton-under-Lovey and observe all the holiday trappings, from caroling and decorating the tree to the Yule log and indoor fireworks.
At the same time, quaint villagers (complete with village idiot and suspected witch) keep dying mysterious accidental deaths — a prank gone wrong, a slip on a bridge, a problem with gas running in a closed room. The titled but penniless Georgiana can’t help but wonder if something more sinister is happening, particularly with three convicts escaped from nearby Dartmoor prison.
Things take a turn for the better, at least from Georgie’s perspective, when old flame Darcy shows up; it turns out he’s the nephew of the manor’s owner, Lady Hawse-Gorzley, and he’s come for the house party, too.
As cozies go, there’s a lot of death in this story, but the traditional Christmas elements more than overshadow the more murderous elements. Happy holiday to all who celebrate it!