In Ann Clair’s debut, Dead and Gondola, the protagonist is a young bookseller in the small town of Last Word, CO, a small hamlet. As with most cozy mysteries, there is a grandma wearing velour tracksuits, a pair of sisters, lots of crazy characters and tons of red herrings. It is a very welcome diversion from the dark mysteries I am used to reading.This book is a cute and warm diversion from dark suspense thrillers. When I looked up the definition of a cozy mystery, this one fit the bill perfectly, because everything about it is cozy and they all seem to be amateur sleuths.
Ellie Christie has just come back to Last Word to manage the family bookstore, The Book Chalet, with her sister, Meg. In fact, she will live in the small studio above the store. They are aided by their grandmother and Ms. Ridge. Ellie and Meg’s parents have retired and gone off to travel, leaving their daughters in charge of the bookstore. The Book Chalet is the very definition of cozy, with aisles of overstuffed bookcases stacked up to the ceiling and cozy little nooks and overstuffed chairs for people to sit and read. A heated glass porch overlooks the vistas of Last Word and the gondola that goes up and down the mountain, transporting skiers and snowboarders to their destination. They even have a Book Club meeting once a week, comprised locals which include a gossip columnist, a poet cowboy and a retired film star. What could go wrong? Murder.
The mystery begins when then their weekly book club meeting starts with one of their members holding a Ouija board, stating there will be a seance. Ms. Ridge, their trusty assistant, does not like this at all. She goes into the kitchen to make coffee and never returns. When the door rings to announce a customer, Ellie goes to welcome them and discovers that Ms. Ridge is missing, as well. There is no customer. When the intruder returns the next day, he has questions. But he also leaves his satchel behind. Meg and Ellie do not know how to find him so they go through his bag and discover a lot of post-it notes, but also a first edition of an Agatha Christie novel, written under a pseudonym, which is very valuable. When they see the stranger boarding a gondola to go down the mountain, they chase after him and end up in the gondola behind him. But the gondola stops almost near the bottom. When the stranger didn’t get out, they found him stabbed in the back. But how? He was by himself!
I really enjoyed this book. Though, sometimes with so many characters, it is hard to keep them straight. There were also several mysteries happening at the same time; who murdered the stranger? Where is Ms. Ridge?. Though with a great cast of crazy unique characters, it was a lot of fun. And who doesn’t want to live in a book chalet, next to a chocolate shop. This is the first in the series and I can’t wait to read more!