Thursday, December 21, 2023

#MidwinterGreetings: Join bestselling author Helen Hollick as she shares a fabulous Christmas Excerpt from A Mystery of Murder #HistoricalFiction #Christmas #TheCoffeePotBookClub @HelenHollick @cathiedunn

A Christmas Excerpt from A Mystery of Murder

A Jan Christopher Cosy Mystery

by Helen Hollick

Set in the 1970s, London-based library assistant Jan Christopher is spending Christmas with her boyfriend Detective Sergeant Laurie Walker and his family in Devon. All was well until some bones were found in the garden after some pigs had escaped –  but it was Christmas morning and solving mysteries would have to wait...

Even at eighteen years old (soon to be nineteen) I still awoke early on Christmas morning with that tingly feeling of anticipated excitement. I guess most of us do. Deep inside, we cherish that hope for a special day with lots of nice things happening. Although I’m aware that it often doesn’t end up like that for many people. Too much to drink, not enough money, over-hyped expectation. Family rows that can lead to violence. That’s the truth for many, but even so, I woke up looking forward to the day, enhanced by the wrapped package from Laurie that I’d put under my pillow. 

I had been tempted to open it soon after I’d snuggled into bed and heard the clock downstairs chime midnight – I’d even got as far as tugging at the ribbon bound around it, but then remembered that the clock was always ten-minutes fast, so I put my gift back under the pillow, and promptly fell asleep until 6.30 a.m.

The rest of the house was quiet. I switched on the bedside light and eagerly unwrapped the present. It was expensive. Chanel No. 5 perfume. Indulgent, I dabbed a little on my wrists and behind my ears and asked my teddy, Bee Bear, what he thought. He was still asleep, so didn’t answer. For fun, I dabbed a little on his nose.

I dozed until eight o’clock when I heard movement, got up, got dressed. Breakfast, Happy Christmas wishes and kisses to everyone. (Laurie grinned and said I smelled nice.) Church for morning carols, with the turkey cooking in the Aga, and a glorious aroma filling the house when we came home. We had coffee after ‘all hands’ had helped peel the spuds and top-’n’-tail the sprouts. All hands except Laurie’s mum, Elsie, whom, because of her broken arm, we insisted put her feet up in the sitting room. She protested, exclaiming that she really shouldn’t expect guests to cook their own dinner, but we – Uncle Toby and myself – assured her that my Aunt Madge was in her element; she loved cooking, particularly special meals on special occasions, for special people.

One present each from the tree. Laurie handed them out. We had given Gran and Elsie their pots of hyacinths at breakfast, with me apologising to Aunt Madge that had I known she was coming...! She only laughed and said that the box of gifts I’d left at home for her and my uncle were now piled with the rest. “We brought them with us, dear!”

As Laurie had predicted, his gran had wrinkled her nose at her plants. “How am I to get these home, then?” she complained.

Laurie’s dad, Alf, muttered, “In a basket on the back of your broomstick,” but I don’t think she heard, or at least, she ignored him.

“We can take you home, Gran,” Laurie offered. “Maidenhead isn’t out of our way.” 

Gran frowned. “What? In that rusty old car of yours? No, thank you. Besides, I have paid for a return railway ticket.”

I opened a little present labelled ‘With love from Elsie’ and I laughed when I discovered what it was. A tiny, exquisitely knitted black and yellow striped jumper for Bee Bear teddy! 

“I asked your aunt what you’d like as a ‘smiley’ present – we always give each other something to make us smile, nothing practical, nothing useful or expensive. I hope it fits him?”

I rushed upstairs to fetch him, put his new jumper on and brought him downstairs to show everyone. “Perfect fit!” I announced.

Funnily enough, my present to Laurie was a jumper, a somewhat larger one, of course, a traditional Irish Aran in the customary off-white báinín colour, with cable patterns on the body and sleeves. I had an Irish friend who knitted them, and just as Elsie had found out about the size for Bee Bear, I’d found out Laurie’s size from Elsie. What a surreptitious lot we can be at Christmas!

We gave Alf the photograph album we’d bought at the South Molton  Pannier Market, which he was delighted with, but didn’t get a chance to more than quickly glance at, as it was time for us ‘able bodied’ to help in the kitchen. Elsie was firmly told to sit by the fire and start the novel her husband had given her – the hardback edition of The Dwelling Place by Catherine Cookson. Gran Ethel (making a remark about trite fiction) picked up the photograph album and started browsing through. No one disturbed her – for once she seemed approving and contented. Photographs obviously counted as acceptable, alongside French novels. And then it was time to carve the turkey, and serve Christmas Dinner.

Aunt Madge had done us proud, and we all flopped into the comfort of the sitting room to recover from being over-stuffed with good food and wine. Laurie was too full to even consider playing the piano again. I’ve no idea who fell almost instantly asleep because I was one of the first to doze off, my head on Laurie’s shoulder, his arm around my waist as we curled up together on one of the settees. Bess barking woke us all up.

It must have been about 3.15 – we all felt guilty at missing the Queen’s speech on TV – Bess barked again, and there came a loud knock at the front door.

“Who on earth has come calling on Christmas Day?” Alf asked rhetorically as he heaved himself up and headed for the hall. We were all astonished a moment later when he came back with Reverend Passwith in tow...

1) A Mirror Murder
2) A Mystery Of Murder
3) A Mistake Of Murder
4) A Meadow Murder
(there will be more!)

All available from my
Amazon Author Page:

A Mystery of Murder

A Jan Christopher Cosy Crime Novel

by Helen Hollick

Library Assistant Jan Christopher is to spend Christmas in Devon with her boyfriend, DS Laurie Walker and his family, but when a murder is discovered, followed by a not very accidental accident, the traditional Christmas spirit is somewhat marred...What happened to Laurie’s ex-girlfriend? Where is the vicar’s wife? Who took those old photographs? And will the farmer up the lane ever mend those broken fences?

Set in 1971, this is the second Jan Christopher Cosy Mystery. Join her (and an owl and a teddy bear) in Devon for a Christmas to remember.

Will the discovery of a murder spoil Christmas for Jan Christopher and her boyfriend DS Laurie Walker – or will it bring them closer together?

Praise for A Mystery of Murder:

"There are lots of things to enjoy in the second in the Jan Christopher cosy mystery series"

~ Best-selling cozy mystery author Debbie Young

The Coffee Pot Book Club Online Tour Reviews:

"Jan is an absolutely lovely character, and I loved following her story. She is a little naïve, but she is 18, and there are things about the world that she has yet to learn... a great story to settle down with to get you into the Christmas spirit, as well as pulling on your detective hat and analysing the characters."

~ Like A Thousand Suns Blog

"A laid back sort of novel, the kind that you can relax while reading, and simply let the story happen. This author has a particularly unique style of writing... this book wasn’t simply a story, but an experience. You almost have the feeling that the author is reading the book to you, and is adding in her own little quips every now and again. I loved every second... The whole mystery is well thought out... utterly amazing!"

~ I Got Lost In A Book Blog

"The pace is gently cosy, despite the murder... Jan is a wonderful character; young, naïve, but also savvy when needed. And Laurie is a gem. All the characters and their foibles and actions stay true to the era... a lovely, warm story."

~ Ruins & Reading

This title is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.

Universal Buy Link

Helen Hollick

Helen Hollick and her husband and adult daughter moved from north-east London in January 2013 after finding an 18th-century North Devon farmhouse through being a ‘victim’ on BBC TV’s popular Escape to The Country show. The thirteen-acre property was the first one she was shown – and it was love at first sight. She enjoys her new rural life, and has a variety of animals on the farm, including Exmoor ponies, dogs, cats, hens, ducks and geese and her daughter’s string of show jumpers.

First accepted for publication by William Heinemann in 1993 – a week after her fortieth birthday – Helen then became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) with the sequel, Harold the King (US: I Am the Chosen King), novels that explore the events that led to the battle of Hastings in 1066. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy is a 5th-century version of the Arthurian legend, and she also writes a pirate-based nautical adventure/fantasy series, The Sea Witch Voyages.

Despite being impaired by the visual disorder of Glaucoma, she is also branching out into the quick read novella, ‘Cosy Mystery’ genre with the Jan Christopher Mysteries, set in the 1970s, with the first in the series, A Mirror Murder incorporating her, often hilarious, memories of working for thirteen years as a library assistant.

Her nonfiction books are Pirates: Truth and Tales and Life of a Smuggler and she is planning on writing about the ghosts of North Devon (in particular, those who are resident in her house), and maybe something about famous horses: these might appear as published books or serialised on her blog. She also runs a news and events blog and a Facebook page for her village, and supports her daughter’s passion for horses and showjumping.

Connect with Helen:

Website • Facebook • Blog

Amazon Author Page • Newsletter 


  1. Thank you Cathie for highlighting A Mystery of Murder - Merry Christmas to you and all your blog visitors!

  2. thank you Cathie for hosting my excerpt - Happy Christmas to you and to all your Blog Visitors