Ann Claire’s deeply enjoyable Dead and Gondola transports readers to the fictional mountain village of Last Word, Colorado, where snow is falling and murder is in the air.
Ellie Christie has just moved back home to help her older sister, Meg, run the Book Chalet. The shop has been in their family for generations, and now the two bibliophile sisters are ready to make their mark on the business. When a mysterious man interrupts their weekly book club meeting and leaves behind a rare edition of an Agatha Christie novel, the sisters are puzzled. Spotting him in a crowd the next day, Ellie and Meg try to get his attention to return the book, but by the time they catch up with him on the gondola, the man is dead. Even though the sisters aren’t related to the famed Christie, they grew up reading her novels and are determined to put their sleuthing knowledge to good use by figuring out who the man was, who killed him and why.
Dead and Gondola is a lighthearted, fast-paced cozy mystery with a cast of likable characters. Besides Ellie and Meg, the Christie family includes their beloved Gram, who’s keen to trade baked goods for gossip, and Meg’s tech-savvy daughter, Rosie. Their bookshop cat is also a delight, with a personality as strong as any human’s—she’s named Agatha, of course.
Claire effectively heightens the stakes for the Christie women at the very start of the book, when an unexpected storm cuts off Last Word from the outside world. No one can get in or out, which means Ellie, Meg and their family are trapped in the small town with a murderer. In spite of this, Claire makes Last Word sound awfully appealing: Who wouldn’t want to ride a glass-domed gondola to a historic bookshop and cozy up by the fire with a good read?