Friday, December 12, 2014


by Myrtle Crumb from Claus of Death by Gayle Trent

The neighbors sure do come out of the woodwork this time of year, don't they? At least, they do where I'm from. And you'd better have some cookies or a cake or some fudge or something to give them because if you don't, they'll talk about you behind your back.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't mind neighbors--at least, I don't mind most of my neighbors--coming to visit. For instance, Melvia is always welcome. Her sister, Tansie, on the other hand, is something else entirely.

Let me give you an example. This happened just the other day:


“It’s about time,” Tansie said, when I opened the door. She brushed past me. “I thought you were going to let us stand out there in the cold all day.”
          “Well, no,” I said. “I hadn’t planned on it, Miss Impatient.  Hi, Melvia.”
          “Hello, Myrtle,” Melvia said.
          “Here. Give me your coats, and I’ll hang ‘em up,” I said.
          Tansie wriggled out of her long wool coat and handed it to me. Melvia said she believed she’d leave her jacket on.
          “I took a chill when we were at the mall, and I’ve not got over it yet,” she said.
          “Is it that cold out?” I asked. It hadn’t snowed or anything, but I knew it was in the low thirties or the high twenties…about right for early December in southwest Virginia.
          “It’s not so much the cold as what happened at the mall,” Tansie said.
          “Can I get ya’ll some coffee?” I asked.
          “I’d like a cup,” Melvia said.
          We all went into the kitchen, Matlock included. He was as eager as I was to find out what happened at the mall that had given poor little old Melvia a chill.
          I poured Melvia a cup of coffee and handed her the sugar bowl, the creamer, and a spoon as she sat down at the table.
          “How long has that coffee been settin’ there?” Tansie asked.
          “Not long. I made a fresh pot at lunchtime. But if you don’t want any, it won’t hurt my feelings.” I poured myself a cup as Tansie said she believed she’d pass. Hateful thing. Like her coffee don’t taste as thick and strong as motor oil no matter when it’s made.
          I took my coffee and sat down at the table with Melvia.
Tansie sat down across from Melvia. “You gonna tell her, or do you want me to?”
Melvia shook her head. “I don’t want to. You tell her.”
“Well, I wish somebody would,” I said. This was getting worse than one of them soap opera cliff hangers. I put sugar and creamer into my coffee and stirred it up. I didn’t have all day.
“Melvia and I went to the mall to do a little Christmas shopping. I needed to finish up.” She looked down her nose at her sister. “Had you even started before this morning?”
Melvia shook her head. “I told you. I had to wait on my Social Security check to get here.”
I told you Tansie was hateful. She didn’t have to bring that up in front of me or anybody else. She just wanted me to know—and Melvia to be reminded—that she didn’t have to wait for money to come in. She could go shopping whenever she wanted.
“I do mine a little bit along,” I said to Melvia. In fact, I had mine pert near done, but I didn’t say so. No sense in making Melvia feel even worse.
“Will ya’ll please stop interrupting?” Tansie huffed. “Melvia and I were going through the mall. Belk had their pantsuits on sale, and we were headed down there to look at them when we saw a commotion at Santa Land.”
She was waiting for me to ask what happened, but I didn’t say a word. She’d just told us to stop interrupting, so I’d be dogged if I was going to now.
Since neither me nor Melvia said a word, Tansie just blurted the rest of it out.
“Jackson Barnard, who was playing Santa Claus, killed himself.”
“And he was on the throne when he did it,” Melvia said softly. “Oh, I don’t mean in the bathroom. He was on his Santa Land throne.”
“He killed himself?” I asked. “With what? A gun?”
“No. It was poison. He’d put it in his coffee,” Tansie said.
Melvia looked down at hers like it might have poison in it, so I took a sip of mine to reassure her.
“Are you sure?” I frowned. “Maybe he just had a heart attack or something. No self-respecting mall Santa would kill himself right there in Santa Land in front of all those little kids.”
“It wasn’t too bad crowded today,” Melvia said. “I reckon most of the young ‘uns were in school.”
“Still, what makes y’all so sure it was a suicide?” I asked.
“Because we heard the police talking about it with the woman who works at the Bagel Barn,” Tansie said. “She saw the whole thing. She said he was fine as frog hair, said ‘good morning’ to her as he passed by, went over to Santa Land and sat down on his throne, took a drink of his coffee, and five minutes later he was dead.”
“But why do you think it was suicide?” I wasn’t letting this go without some hard evidence.
“We know because one of the police officers said there were signs of poison,” Melvia said.
“Then how do you know it was suicide and not murder?” I asked.
Tansie rolled her eyes like I was stupid. “Because people get depressed this time of year. Besides, who’s gonna kill Santa?
* * *
See what I mean? So how about you? Do you like having neighbors drop in, or would you rather have them wait until they're invited?
In case they start to drop in, and you need a good cookie recipe, here's one for Potato Chip Cookies. They're so good! (I don't put walnuts in mine though.)

Killer Characters are celebrating the holiday season by giving away books all month long! I'll be giving away FIVE copies of Claus of Death. Please note, it's only available digitally, but it's available in all formats. Please leave a comment below with your email address (and which format you'd prefer--Kindle, Nook, etc.) so I can notify the winner. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


  1. This sounds like an interesting series and is one I'm not familiar with. I read most of my cozy mysteries on a Kindle. Merry Christmas to you to Krista.

  2. Yikes! The malls are crazy enough without having a dead Santa! I can't wait to see how it happened! Did he die of natural causes? Was he poisoned? My e -books are on a free kindle app. My e-mail address is:

  3. I'm looking for this book the next time I go to Barnes & Nobles. I prefer neighbors to call first so I can have the house in order and some good treats available.

    1. Me too, Dianne! I can clean like the dickens when I know somebody is coming! :D

  4. I hate when that happens. Hoe I find out how. I like pDF
    debby236 at gmail dot com

  5. Sounds fantastic...I'd love to read it...Kindle please..

  6. I enjoy having the neighbors drop in, usually. It is fun to visit with them. Nook, please.


  7. They can drop in if they are coming to see me.... If they want to see the house, they need to call first.... :)
    Alicia (I'm a Kindle gal.)

  8. I love for friends to drop in; neighbors need to call first. I don't know my most of my neighbors all that well.

    Julia (I prefer Nook)

  9. I wish our neighbors did drop in---I've lived here 20 years and don't even know their names. I know our lots are VERY large, but it seems like we could still be friendly.

    1. I agree, Sue. It's a shame that we don't know our neighbors like we did when I was growing up.

  10. Okay, I have to admit it, this just made me smile and think of my grandmother. Her name was Myrtle and she was quite the character (more like Tansie sometimes I think ;-) ) and I haven't heard "pert near" since I last heard her say it. Neighbors drop in? Well, most of them but not Mr.-Self-Appointed-Neighborhood-Monitor who lives next door. I suppose every neighborhood has one of them. It's okay if he doesn't pay us a visit!

    1. Oh, my gosh, Grandma Cootie, we had a Self-Appointed-Neighborhood-Monitor who would walk up and down the street and shine his flashlight in our windows or at us if we were outside! Bugged us to death! LOL! And, by the way, Myrtle is very loosely based on my grandmother.

  11. It depends on far along I am in my own holiday preparations. I don't mind a drop in once I'm ready for it! Thanks!
    JHolden955(at)gmail(dot)com (Nook)

  12. Kindle would be great.

  13. Definitely on my TBR list--just my kind of book!

  14. Entered comments yesterday and they have been removed. Still would like to enter.

  15. Thank you for the giveaway, Kindle please.


  16. Who wants Santa dead?? Would love to find out. Love Myrtle! Kindle please.

  17. Fortunately, I don't have neighbors that stop in. I haven't since I was in college-and I am eternally grateful! I have a Kindle BTW. Thanks.

  18. Another holiday read to add to my to be read list. Thanks for the review.

  19. I enjoy people stopping by. I love to bake and usually have something in the freezer I can pull out.

  20. I love your books! I hope I will win one.

  21. OOps forgot to say Kindle please. My email is

  22. Well, duh. Of course it could be murder.
    I'd like a kindle version, please
    libbydodd at comcast dot net

  23. Great title to add to my TBR list

  24. I absolutely love when neighbors or friends drop by. It is always nice to catch up...I also would love it if they bring some stories of excitement. Thank you for the potato chip cookie recipe. There is a volunteer who comes in to our station every now and then and she makes potato chip cookies. They are a dream!
    If I win...Kindle please.


  25. Drop in, please. House won't be clean, but if warned ahead of time I would have to try to make it appear so. Kindle, please and thank you. Bobbipad at

  26. OMG, too funny! I'm going to have to try those potato chip cookies. My husband's favorite sweet is potato candy. We have too many dogs for folks to just drop by...the FedEx guy won't even get out of his truck.

    I was raised to knock and wait to be admitted, even with family. My in-laws are like polar opposite of that, but I'm adjusting. *lol*

    MOBI files are good. luann(dot)braley(at)gmail(dot)com

  27. We have made potato chip cookies for many years. We love them. This book sounds fun. I'd love to read it. I have a kindle.

    lkish77123 at gmail dot com

  28. I'd probably rather neighbors, or anyone, would wait until they're invited. But then they might never come, because I don't do much inviting. I'm not a housekeeper - don't like housekeeping at all, and both hubby & I are clutter-ers. So I'm not likely to have a clean house, or even a cleared off chair, for visitors. But when they do come, I generally enjoy them.
    Can one use stale potato chips in this recipe, or do they need to be fresh? {and I expect Pringles would not do} I have a tuna casserole recipe that uses potato chips in it, and on top, and I found stale ones work just as well there.

  29. I'm not the type of person who cares one way or another if a neighbor just drops in or not. If they are not invited by my family then they have to accept us as we are. This sounds like a great holiday read.

  30. My husband's brother and his wife dropped in unannounced. And, they're very critical. Fortunately, they don't come very often. I can use either mobi or epub. thanks.

  31. Would love a kindle copy. Love your mysteries!

    Tennisace50 (@) yahoo (dot) com

  32. i'd much rather have them wait till invited! potato chip cookies?? hmmmm....

  33. Love to read this one!

  34. Thank you all so much for your comments! Congratulations to my five winners (names at the side). If you didn't win, please check out for another opportunity to win. You could also win a paperback copy of Thread End and a diamond accent snowflake necklace or an Amazon gift card. Good luck! And Merry Christmas!