By Vicki Delany

Most of us would agree that Christmas can come too soon. We complain (I certainly do) about decorations in the stores and seasonal ads on TV before summer’s even over, never mind before Halloween.

But still, a lot of us do our shopping ahead of time. I know people who buy decorations for next year the week after this year’s Christmas, and who start shopping for gifts around the time they put away the New Years’ decorations.  It’s a wise woman (or man) who starts her baking in plenty of time. A traditional Christmas cake or old-fashioned English pudding, full of rum or brandy, or sometimes both, needs to be started months ahead to be perfect for the big day.

It’s precisely to help out those early birds that the town of Rudolph, New York celebrates Christmas all year round.

Don’t rush to your atlases or Google maps looking for Rudolph because I made it up. It’s the town at the center of my new series, The Year Round Christmas mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime.

Rudolph wants to be known as America’s Christmas Town and everything in Rudolph is about celebrating the holidays. All year round. They have a Santa Claus parade twice a year.  The usual one the first Saturday in December, and then another for Christmas in July.

In Rudolph everyone gets into the spirit of the thing.  Victoria’s Bake Shoppe is famous for its gingerbread.  There’s Candy Cane Sweets, the North Pole Ice Cream Parlour, The Elves Lunchbox, Cranberries Coffee Bar, Touch of Holly Restaurant, The Yuletide Inn, the Carolers Motel. (Looking at this list it seems as though the residents and visitors to Rudolph like to eat a lot.)

The series protagonist is Merry Wilkinson, owner of Mrs. Claus’s Treasures. Merry’s dad, Noel, is Santa Claus. Yes, Merry knows that he isn’t really Santa, but she does sometimes wonder. He has a way of knowing exactly what someone wants before even they do.

But presents, decorations, ornaments and even food isn’t what the holidays are about. Or it shouldn’t be.  In Rudolph they know that.

They know that Christmas is about friendship, family, and love. What we sometimes call Christmas magic.

“Ho, ho, ho,” said the deep voice from the shop doorway.

“Look who’s here,” A woman said to the restless six-year-old tugging on her coat. “It’s Santa!”

The kid, who’d moments before been whining and stomping his feet with such vigor I feared for the more delicate of my ornaments, stood stock still, wide-eyed and open mouthed.

“Have you been a good boy?” Santa asked him.

The child nodded, struck dumb.

“Santa’s going to the park,” the head toy-maker said. “For games.”

“We’ll be right there, Santa,” the mother said.

My dad nodded to the music box resting in her hand. “Your great-grandmother will get a lot of pleasure out of that.” With a wink and another wave to the child, he left.

The woman’s eyes were as wide and delighted as her son’s. “How did he know my great-grandmother’s still alive? This will be her one hundred and seventh Christmas, and she looks forward to it as much as she did when she was a child.”

“He’s Santa,” the toy maker said.

“Are you Santa’s wife?” the child asked me.

“Yup,” I said. Normally I might be offended if someone suggested I was old enough to be married to my own father. But I was in my Mrs. Claus getup and today everyone would believe what they wanted to believe. The air over Rudolph was chock full of that special Christmas magic.

About the book:

We Wish You a Murderous Christmas

Nov 01, 2016 | 304 Pages