Christmas in Crystal Bay, Wisconsin is always special. I know it’s a cliché, but really, it is the “most wonderful time of the year.” (Well, maybe not this year: more on that in a moment.)
Every year I look forward to my hometown Christmas. There’s just more of a “buzz” in the air, what with all of the holiday decorations, shoppers bustling about Garden Street (where my Mediterranean meals-from-scratch business, Callie’s Kitchen, is located) and wonderful holiday events, like the annual Christmas Tea at The English Country Inn.
The English Country Inn has always been one of my favorite places in town. Situated right on the water with a dining room that boasts one of Wisconsin’s most beautiful views (at least in my humble opinion) it’s got beautifully appointed, warm and inviting rooms and a decadent in-house restaurant. Not that I get much of a chance to stay there. The demands of work and caring for my 10-year-old daughter Olivia as a single mom don’t permit too much downtime. Still, even stepping inside the place makes me feel good, especially because they really go all out at Christmastime: big stone fireplace blazing, gorgeous Christmas trees and that view!
So, as you can imagine, I was thrilled when acquaintance and colleague Natalie Underwood, the hotel event planner, told me that there had been a request for my Greek snowball cookies, aka kourabiethes, for a Christmas-themed bridal shower in honor of Lexy Dayton. True, the holidays are a busy time for my staff and me, but I’ll take extra business that comes my way – especially since being the prime suspect in a murder nearly shut me down just a few months ago. I told Natalie I’d be delighted to provide the holiday sweets.
Well, that’s where the delight ended. A chilling murder upended the entire day and just might disrupt the entire holiday season. Instead of festive, Crystal Bay residents, including yours truly, are chilled to the bone! And it’s not just from the incredible cold and snowy conditions that have moved in and appear ready to stay. One thing I can tell you is that we’ll have a white Christmas – the weather is even keeping my friend Emma, the owner of The English Country Inn, away from home. She’s stuck in Arizona and can’t get a flight due to the massive blizzard conditions. She asked me if I’d keep an eye on things and I said I would. Add it to my increasing holiday to-do list!
And wouldn’t you know – this is the year that my Thea Glykeria (that’s “Aunt Sweetie” for all of you non-Greek speakers out there) made a surprise holiday visit from Greece! I’m so happy to see her – I haven’t seen her since I visited her when I was 13. She doesn’t travel to the U.S. much, but this year of all years she decided to make the trek. She’s staying with my wonderful but protective father, George, and it wasn’t easy letting them know that I was touched by yet another murder. I thought Sweetie would be really spooked.
On the contrary! She and my octogenarian grandmother, Viv, are getting along like a house on fire. These two think they’re the new Dana Girls and have plans to conduct their own covert investigation. As if anything you do is covert in a place like Crystal Bay. Holy smokes! I’m going to have to work hard to keep them out of trouble.
My new boyfriend, Detective Sands, isn’t thrilled with the notion that we’re all taking the law into our own hands. I agree about Sweetie and Viv – but me? I promised Emma, the owner of the inn, that I’d help her by digging out information. This is proving to be more difficult than I thought.
Unfortunately, my personal suspect list is long. It includes the hotel concierge, my best friend Samantha’s new guy (a groundskeeper at the inn and a jazz musician – he plays at our local supper club, The Elkhorn), Lexy Dayton and her mother and even Lexy’s fiancé who seemed to have a thing for Natalie Underwood, the victim. To tell you the truth, pretty much anybody working at the inn is a suspect in my book. They all seem to have interesting secrets to hide – some more than others.
Right now, I’ve got to get back to baking. In addition to everything else I cook, I’m providing the food for the Daytons (bride-to-be’s family) holiday luncheon.
It sure smells good in Callie’s Kitchen today – I wish you could join me. Max and Piper, my two assistants have decorated the entire shop with lights, poinsettias, vintage Santas and other Christmas décor. I’ve got buttery Greek biscotti aka paxemathia in the oven right now. (The secret ingredient? Ouzo).
It would all seem a lot more festive if we could solve poor Natalie’s murder. This whole thing has got us all asking: will Christmas be merry this year? Or will it be murder?
In any case, Kala Christouyenna! (That’s Merry Christmas in Greek).
SPICED AND ICED is the second book in the Callie’s Kitchen mystery series, published January 2017.
The holidays can be murder! Greek-American restaurateur Callie Costas finds herself on thin ice when a colleague is killed. Recipes included!
The season is bright when Calliope “Callie” Costas agrees to contribute her Greek snowball cookies to a December bridal shower at The English Country Inn in the scenic waterfront town of Crystal Bay, WI. But when Callie finds a colleague dead, she’s sucked into another murder investigation — all while juggling her growing business and staggering holiday workload.
As she reluctantly agrees to help the Inn’s owner track the killer, Callie is soon up to her spiced Greek biscotti in difficulties. For one thing, the hotel staff is freezing her out as she tries to uncover information, helped by her feisty Grandma Viv and her sweet but nosy aunt who’s visiting from Greece. And then there’s her deepening relationship with the suave and mysterious Detective Sands, a British expat now living in Wisconsin, who seems to have a few secrets of his own.
The icing on the cake is a host of simultaneous family mayhem including her father’s surprising fixation on a real estate agent and her ex’s plans to move back to Crystal Bay. As the Inn’s annual Christmas Tea approaches, things are heating up in Callie’s Kitchen, but she’s on thin ice! Will Christmas be a festive celebration this year – or will it be murder?
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About the author
Jenny Kales is the author of The Callie’s Kitchen Mystery Series, featuring Calliope Costas, Greek-American food business owner and feisty amateur sleuth. Kales’ marriage into a Greek-American Midwestern family inspired the series and the setting of the story, “Crystal Bay,” is inspired by a favorite family vacation spot – Wisconsin’s beautiful Geneva Lakes.
Jenny is an avid reader, cook and baker and she’s addicted to mystery TV, especially anything on Masterpiece Mystery or BBC America. A member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, she lives just outside of Chicago with her husband, two daughters and one cute but demanding Yorkshire terrier. Connect with Jenny at jennykales.wordpress.com.
All comments are welcomed.