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A Very Merry Murder (A Professor Prather Mystery)
by Mary Angela

About the Book

A Very Merry Murder (A Professor Prather Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
3rd in Series
Camel Press (October 1, 2018)
Paperback: 258 pages
ISBN-10: 1603816550
ISBN-13: 978-1603816557
Digital ASIN: B07G2VLLCV

It’s December in Copper Bluff, and from hillside to hallowed hall, everyone is merry—or will be as soon as semester break arrives. Students are studying, professors are grading, and Emmeline Prather is anticipating the university-sponsored holiday concert. Friend and colleague Lenny Jenkins will be accompanying the visiting quartet, Jazz Underground, and Em can’t think of a better way to kick-start the holiday season.

But before she can say “Jingle Bell Rock,” trouble arrives at Candlelight Inn, the bed and breakfast where the quartet is staying. One of the band members dies unexpectedly, and suspicion falls on Em, whose altercation with the man ends with him on the floor. He never recovers, and now she’s worried her reputation might not either. When Emmeline starts to see parallels between an Agatha Christie novel she’s teaching and the victim, Lenny claims she’s read one too many mysteries.

As the clues unravel, so does the murderer’s patience. Em is close to finding the truth, but will the truth—or the murderer—push her over the edge? It will take a Christmas miracle to solve this case, but if there’s one thing in surplus this time of year, it’s faith.

Guest Post by the Author

Holidays and Ovens and Potatoes, Oh My!


My sister and I took our mom to the Olive Garden the other day, and we noticed an advertisement for catering.


“Olive Garden caters?” my sister said. I noted the hopeful glint in her eye.


“We should do that for the holidays,” I said.


Every winter, I face the same old issue: how to feed twenty plus people at Christmas. It usually involves either a) overcooked potatoes or b) a favor. Both are troublesome. First of all, potatoes are a Christmas dinner staple. They go with turkey, ham, roast beef, or any other piece of meat I’m cooking. If I didn’t serve them, it would just be wrong. Second, Christmas Mass is long. Even if my husband does dash out after communion (a faux pas of the most high), the potatoes might still be overdone.


Herein enters the favor. I could ask a relative to bring said potatoes. The problem is not everyone in my family realizes how essential they are to the meal. They might forget, and we all know what happens when you don’t include a starch at the table. Guests fill up on other food, food that might not be as plentiful as the cheap vegetable.


This year, I thought I had a solution. I bought a new double oven, one I can control via smartphone. Simply put, I can cook Christmas dinner remotely, shutting off the oven when the dishes reach certain temperatures. Woe to me this Christmas if the priest catches me checking my oven temp!


At the time of this writing, however, the oven hasn’t been delivered much less installed. It’s been delayed by three weeks. Unfortunately the notice came after I had the old oven removed and cabinets refitted. I’ve been grilling ever since. Between you and me, I don’t want hamburgers for the holidays.


Which leads me back to the Olive Garden. Catering would save a lot of hassle. But for some reason, the idea makes me feel guilty, and not just because I’m Catholic. My mom cooked big meals and set fancy tables for over twenty years. Certainly I’m woman enough to take up the mantle.


One of my favorite Christmas stories Mom shares, however, doesn’t include a fancy meal or table but four friends in a grocery store. Busy on her lunch hour, Mom rushed into Sunshine Foods. It was cold, like it always is in December, and Mom was rushing because of the weather and the time. At the deli, she ordered her meal, and while waiting, noticed four friends having lunch. Disabled and disadvantaged, they had gathered around a small deli table to eat and exchange gifts. The friends relished their food and packages, talking about how lucky they were to get together, never mind the cold weather or small mementos.

I remember the impression it made on my mom. She was struck by their happiness, despite what little they had. I wonder what my mom must have felt in those moments that made her recall the event many times afterwards. Did she think of her own preparations? Her dinner? Her gifts?


Maybe it was the Christmas spirit, that ethereal knowledge of what really matters during the holidays. It doesn’t take a double oven or a smart phone to celebrate the season. Large turkeys or gifts aren’t required for people to have a good time. Sunshine—or Olive Garden—will suffice for a meal. And if the potatoes don’t make it to the table, it’s okay. We have each other on the holidays, and isn’t that enough?



About the Author

© Julie Prairie Photography 2016

Mary Angela is the author of the Professor Prather academic mystery series, which has been called “enjoyable” and “clever” by Publishers Weekly. She is also an educator and has taught English and humanities at South Dakota’s public and private universities for over ten years. When Mary isn’t writing or teaching, she enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family.

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1 Comment

  1. Mary Angela

    Thanks for sharing my guest post. I appreciate it!

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