*I received a free ARC of this book with thanks to the author. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Celebrate the season in Whispering Pines with snow, mistletoe, and murder.
Preparations for the Yuletide festival are in full swing, and so is the gossip about a blackmailing villager. Sheriff Jayne O’Shea doesn’t have time or patience for small-town rumors. After two long years overseas, her father is coming for a visit and everything has to be perfect. Then, just as things start falling into place, the blackmailer is found dead.
As if that wasn’t enough, strange packages start showing up on doorsteps around the village, each containing a clue as to how the receiver will die. Now, Jayne has to decide what’s more important. Focusing on a murder that’s already happened or trying to prevent six more.
It’s Yuletide at Whispering Pines, but not everyone is feeling the goodwill of the season.
Jayne is at an unusually frenetic pitch with the expected advent of a special visitor… not Santa, but her long-absent dad! Just to add to her troubles, there is a dying woman who seems determined to make everyone suffer before she goes, but is it enough to make them hasten her exit? And the return of certain super-creepy artefacts has her jumping at every shadow. Yuletide may be a family time, but there are some family members you may prefer to stay well away…
It should go without saying at this point that, while you could read these as standalone cosy mysteries, I recommend you read the series in order for the full effect of the plot and character development.
I was really glad to see Jayne and Tripp have found a rhythm to their relationship now, and seem more confident with each other. The solid base of friends and family that Jayne is building for herself in Whispering Pines allows her to stretch herself more professionally in the pursuit of justice, as she has helping hands to catch her if she overreaches. She definitely needs the help this time round, as she is operating on very little sleep and trying to deal with three pressing (and emotionally involved) issues at the same time.
These stories are a mixture of cosy mystery, police procedural (as Jayne used to be a police officer and brings the training and techniques to her role as sheriff) and a dose of the paranormal and spiritual in the form of Wicca, fortune tellers, charms and curses.
Whispering Pines is a unique and fascinating setting, with a warm and yet eerie atmosphere, and the residents are full of surprises. I definitely recommend this series for anyone looking for some well-written cosy mysteries, with a touch of woo-woo and a long-running family secret subplot.
“This is really great, Reeva,” I praised.
“Oh!” She clapped her hands together. “I almost forgot to mention, I’ll also be setting up a shed in the back for making soaps and other natural household cleaners.”
“You’re going to need help,” Tripp said.
“I will. And by the time the summer tourist season starts, that person will have risen to the top in my classes and revealed herself to be the perfect assistant. Speaking of classes, I’d better check on my students. There’s a cauldron of wassail warming in the hearth. It’s non-alcoholic, so feel free to imbibe all you wish. And look around.” She nudged Tripp with her elbow. “I can tell you’re itching to check out the kitchen. Nothing is off-limits.”
She returned to the cooking area to supervise the meat pie production and then greeted more patrons arriving for the grand opening.
Tripp took the “nothing is off-limits” comment as a free pass to look in every drawer. He was familiar with most of the gadgets, but a few made him pause and investigate more closely. While he explored his version of an adult playground, I wandered over to the fireplace to get some wassail and overheard a conversation that made my sheriff’s instincts prickle.
– Shawn McGuire, Merciful Secrets
Merciful Secrets releases on 23rd September, but you can preorder it right now!
You can find my previous reviews of the Whispering Pines series here: Family Secrets (#1); Kept Secrets (#2); Original Secrets (#3); Hidden Secrets (#4); Rival Secrets (#5); Veiled Secrets (#6); Silent Secrets (#7).