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December bullies its way into the village in a swirl of snow and biting wind, threatening to cancel the annual St. Nicholas festival. But winter’s slap pales when a body is discovered in the candlelit church. Someone is not living up to the seasonal wish of ‘peace on earth, good will towards man.’ But the village harbors more than Christmas gifts, DS Brenna Taylor discovers as she and her colleagues from the Derbyshire Constabulary begin working the case. There is the feud between two rival authors; a wife’s open disdain of her husband and his secret comfort in the arms of another woman; the pent-up emotions of a vicar’s wife forced to conform to idealistic conceptions; the tacit threat of a troubled teenager and his delinquent girlfriend. Brenna also discovers emotions she didn’t know she had when DS Mark Salt, her harassing macho cohort, makes overtures of genuine friendship. Now Brenna must not only examine her love for her boss, DCI Geoffrey Graham, but also consider the likelihood of its ever being returned. As if sorting through the affairs of the heart and the tangle of motive and suspects in the case weren’t hard enough, a series of arsons threatens the very village itself. And Brenna wonders if they are looking for two felons or just one very disturbed individual.
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A month-long trip to England during her college years introduced Jo to the joys of Things British. Since then, she has been lured back nearly a dozen times, and lived there during her professional folksinging stint. This intimate knowledge of Britain forms the backbone of both the Taylor & Graham mysteries and the McLaren cold case mystery series. Jo’s insistence for accuracy, from police methods and location layout to the general “feel” of the area, has driven her innumerable times to Derbyshire for research. These explorations and conferences with police friends provide the detail filling the books. In 1999 Jo returned to Webster University to major in English. She graduated in 2001 with a BA degree and departmental honors. Her cats Chaucer and Tennyson share her St. Louis home.
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