Christmas is Murder by C.S. Challinor

christmas-is-murderChristmas Is Murder by C.S. Challinor
Series: Rex Graves Mystery #1
Genre: Mystery
Setting: English countryside at Christmas
Published by Midnight Ink, 2008
E-book, purchased
203 pages
Grade: C-
Synopsis: Christmas is murder… when you’re stranded with a killer

Not even a blizzard can keep Rex Graves away from Swanmere Manor, a secluded Victorian hotel in the English countryside owned by the eccentric Dahlia Smithings. But instead of Christmas cheer, the Scottish barrister finds a dead guest. Was it a stroke that killed old Mr. Lawdry? Or an almond tart laced with poison?

When more guests die, all hopes for a jolly holiday are dashed. Snowbound and terrified, no one can escape the cold-blooded killer. Rex takes it upon himself to unravel the mystery. A biography of President George W. Bush found charred in the fireplace might offer a few clues. Could the killer be the sherry-swilling handyman? The gay antiques dealer with the biting wit? The quarreling newlyweds? Surely it’s not Helen D’Arcy, the lovely lass Rex seems to be falling for…

Initial impressions

  • This didn’t work very well for me. There’s not much Christmas cheer in this mystery. And it doesn’t feel cozy!


  • This is the classic isolated country home mystery often written about by Agatha Christie.
  • It was really hard to tell what time period this book takes place. I finally decided it was a contemporary after it mentions cell phones. It also mentions war and the hotel owner’s son killed in Iraq, but that could have been several wars. Part of my puzzlement about the time period is because the hotel is still lost in Victorian times.
  • It doesn’t bother me too much that this isn’t a cozy Christmas mystery. I like mysteries so the time of year didn’t matter.
  • However, I don’t like the characters very much. They were mostly one-dimensional and used to propel the plot.


  • I thought the mystery was far-fetched. The motive doesn’t work for me.
  • Rex Graves is in a relationship with someone who is now in Iraq, but he’s attracted to Helen D’Arcy. That bothered me.

And a few thoughts . . .

  • I bought this book to read last Christmas, but never got around to it.
  • This year I read it as part of the Ho-Ho-Ho Read-a-Thon and as a book for Wendy’s TBR Challenge. (See below)
  • Since this is the first in a series the books written after this may appeal to me more.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • C.S. Challinor was born in Bloomington, Indiana, and was educated in Scotland (St. George’s School for Girls, Edinburgh) and England (Lewes Priory, Sussex; University of Kent, Canterbury: Joint Hons Latin & French). She now resides in Southwest Florida. Her short stories have been published in women’s magazines in the United States and the United Kingdom. Challinor is a member of the Authors Guild, New York, and is the author of the Rex Graves cozy mystery series featuring Rex Graves, Scottish barrister-sleuth.

Reading Challenges