Twelve Drummers Drumming

Twelve Drummers Drumming (Father Christmas Mystery #1)Twelve Drummers Drumming by C.C. Benison

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am usually very conservative with my ebook purchasing, contenting myself with freebies and watching for books under $2, but I actually paid full price for this one. What can I say? It was Christmas, I was away from home, the title and reviews intrigued me, and I didn’t want to wait until I could get it from the library. You could spend more on a movie and popcorn!

It did not disappoint! I love British cozies. And I love stories involving clergy and their families, since I’m a PK myself. While the story itself is not holiday-themed, we have a vicar called “Father” Christmas serving the parish church of St. Nicholas, and series titles all taken from the 12 Days of Christmas song. I will say that it took some effort on my part to keep track of all the characters – an investment that I hope will pay off as I read more of the series. There is a list of characters in the front, but after getting half-way through the book I started over and took notes as I went along. The major characters are fairly well developed, but others are mentioned once without really adding anything to the story. There are several mysteries going on throughout the book, and not all are resolved at the end. It remains to be seen if those threads will be picked up down the line. Hopefully, there will be eleven more books to come! The plot developments are somewhat predictable – it’s the characters and the backstories that made this interesting for me. Tom Christmas is most definitely not your run-of-the-mill vicar.

Setting: The village of Thornford Regis (made up) in Devonshire.

Main characters:
Tom Christmas is the new vicar of St. Nicholas church in Thornford Regis. He is lately come from Bristol where he was an inner-city team minister. His wife (Jewish and a doctor) was murdered in a violent crime there. The speculation is that it was somebody after money for drugs, but the killer has never been found. As his back-story unfolds, we learn that he was previously a professional magician (The Great Krimboni). His birth parents gave him up for adoption, and his adoptive parents died in a plane crash when he was still a baby. He was raised by his adoptive father’s sister, a veterinarian, and her partner, Kate, an American flight attendant.

Miranda – Tom’s 9-year-old daughter, who misses the French au pair she had in Bristol, and is fascinated with the French equivalent of Nancy Drew.

Julia Hennis – Tom’s sister-in-law, a local music teacher who fills in as organist from time to time at St. Nicholas. She is married to Dr. Alastair Hennis, but their marriage has been very strained. She takes Miranda to synagogue every Sabbath.

Madrun Prowse – She comes with the vicarage and is cook and housekeeper. She writes to her mother in Cornwall daily, and these letters give us her point of view on all the goings on.

Peter Kinsey – the former incumbent vicar who disappeared after serving 18 months. His parents were wealthy farmers in Zimbabwe, killed by rebels.

Fred Pike – local handyman and a kleptomaniac.

Colm Parry – organist and choirmaster. Former pop-singer in the 80s. Reformed alcoholic. Father of Sybella Parry, who is found murdered.

Liam Drewe – ex-con with a very short temper. Owner of the Waterside Cafe where Sybella was a waitress.

Mitsuko Drewe – his wife, an artist. She was born in Wales where her Japanese parents had emigrated to after World War II. Her father, retired manager of the Sony plant in Brigend, is taking Welsh lessons and involved in Welsh folk-dancing (!)

Colonel Phillip Northmore – ancient church treasurer. World War II vet – prisoner of war at Omori.

Sebastian John – the enigmatic verger with a secretive past. He is also Colonel Northmore’s gardener.

Book Description: Father Tom Christmas moves to the picturesque English hamlet of Thornford Regis to become its new vicar and to seek a peaceful haven. But inside the empty village hall, the huge Japanese o-daiko drum that’s featured in the May Fayre festivities has been viciously sliced open—and curled up inside is the bludgeoned body of Sybella Parry, the daughter of the choir director. Realizing this village is not the refuge he’d hoped for, Father Tom comes to a disturbing conclusion: Sybella’s killer must be one of his parishioners. No one is above suspicion—not Sebastian John, the deeply reserved verger, nor Mitsuko Drewe, a local artist, nor Colonel Northmore, survivor of a World War II prison camp. And over all hangs the long-unsolved mystery of a sudden disappearance, one that brought Father Tom to this picture-perfect place to live—or die.

About the author: C.C. Benison is the nom de plume of Doug Whiteway, who was born and still lives in Winnipeg, Canada. He was awarded a BA in Religious Studies from the University of Manitoba, and a degree in journalism from Carleton University in Ottawa. He has worked as a writer and editor for newspapers and magazines, as a book editor, and as a contributor to non-fiction books. He started writing mystery fiction in the 1990s with Death At Buckingham Palace, and followed this with other novels.

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