by Erin Murphy, from the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries by Leslie Budewitz
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Jewel Bay calls itself “Montana’s Christmas Village,” and here at the Merc, Tracy, Lou Mary, and I are working hard to live up to that nickname. When I was a kid, the village—what you would call downtown in any other small town—was pretty quiet. My grand-dad sold plenty of peppermint candy canes and old-fashioned strings of lights here at Murphy’s Mercantile, and he even recruited a tree farmer to sell cut trees out back. But unless your Christmas shopping list ran to chainsaws or bottles of gin—perennial favorites, I admit—Jewel Bay didn’t hold a lot of holiday appeal.
But while I was gone, town went and changed. And I must say, I love it! Sally at Puddle Jumpers has the cutest children’s holiday dresses and toys in the window. The boutique owner bought up a stash of sewing mannequins, and she’s got them dressed in red and green turtlenecks with tartan scarves and shawls, and cedar boughs for skirts. At Dragonfly Dry Goods, Kathy Jensen starched white and ecru crocheted doilies and hung them in the big windows—my kind of snowflakes!
And between the Dragonfly and the Jewel Inn, in the little turn-around where the gas pumps were in the 1930s when Kathy’s building housed a service station, is a giant blue spruce a homeowner donated after the power company told her it had to go.
It’s about community. About seeing old friends, enjoying a treat while you chat and taken in the sights, and celebrating life in our little village.
That’s the true spirit of the season. Come on down and join the fun, then stay to help light that tree.
Because no one does Christmas better than Jewel Bay, Montana’s Christmas Village.
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Erin Murphy, manager of Murphy’s Mercantile (aka the Merc), is tuning up for Jewel Bay’s annual Jazz Festival. Between keeping the Merc’s shelves stocked with Montana’s tastiest local fare and hosting the festival’s kick-off concert, Erin has her hands full.
Discord erupts when jazz guitarist Gerry Martin is found dead on the rocks above the Jewel River. The one-time international sensation had fallen out of sync with festival organizers, students, and performers. Was his death an accident?or did someone even the score?
Despite the warning signs to not get involved, Erin investigates. And when the killer attacks, she orchestrates her efforts into one last crescendo, hoping to avoid a deadly finale.
Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. A past president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat, an avid bird-watcher.
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