From Christmas crimes to murder at a Christmas-time mystery convention


Award-winning novelist Becki Willis offers a bit of Christmas cheer—and crime—with Christmas in The Sisters: A Holiday Novel. Main character Madison Reynolds and her teen twins have settled in The Sisters (twin towns close together), renovations on their house are complete, her business, In a Pinch Temporary Services, is slowly growing, and, best of all, Chief of Police Brash deCordova is in her life.  


But someone targets the community in a series of Christmas-time crimes. Homes are broken into and wrapped gifts are stolen from beneath trees. Even vehicles loaded with presents aren’t safe, particularly on a lonely stretch of highway. Torn between solving the rash of burglaries and shutting down the gambling ring that’s active in the area again, Brash does the only thing he can: he hires In a Pinch to help with the investigation. 


If you haven’t followed Madison’s journey, you might want to start with Chicken Scratch, which finds her widowed and penniless at not yet forty, doing her best to raise two teenagers as a now-single mom. She moves home to The Sisters and opens In a Pinch Temporary Services. It’s all action and murder and romance from there on. 


Becki Willis knew since grade school that she wanted to write, though for years she juggled writing with wife and mother duties. In 2013, she published her first book (He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not), retired from her restaurant/gift shop, and dedicated herself to writing full-time. She is the author of three other series: Texas General Cozy Cases, The Spirits of Texas Cozy Mysteries, and Mirrors Don’t Lie, along with several stand-alone novels. Her books have won the Silver Falchion Award for Best Cozy, been a Reader’s Favorite Finalist, and named a finalist for the Best Book of the Year at Killer Nashville. 


Becki’s website says, “My books may not change your life, but they may change your day. And sometimes that’s just as important.” 


In Holly Jolly Murder, sixth in the Hollywood Whodunit series, humorous mystery novelist Brittany E. Brinegar takes murder—and Christmas—to Killer Clause, a mystery writers’ convention, and once again involves amateur sleuth Becky Robinson in tracking down a killer. Becky made her debut in Prime Time Murder, when, star-struck with visions of catching her big break, she finds herself walking dogs and fetching coffee for the real star. Not exactly the glamor she expected. But on her first day on the set, she stumbles across the body of a prominent actress. Police see her as the prime suspect, and her name makes the headlines—but as a possible murderer, not a movie star. Becky has to clear her name and find the killer before another victim dies. 


That first book in the series sets a precedent: Becky finds bodies. At first, it’s a missing mystery writer in Holly Jolly Murder. The scene soon turns to crime, though, when Becky finds a ransom note, written to the tune of a Christmas carol. Of course, nothing will stop Becky from investigating, but finding clues is a challenge at a convention where everyone thinks they know how to pull off the perfect crime. The fun reindeer games end when one of the suspects is found dead under the Christmas tree. It’s up to Becky to determine who’s naughty and who’s nice. 


Brinegar has put her trademark humor to work in a total of eight Hollywood Whodunit books (she describes the series as humorous cozy mysteries) and in three other series: Spies of Texas, Robinson Family Detective Agency, and 1-Hour Mysteries.  


A native Texan, the author lives in Arlington with two dogs who are both writing companions and distractions. Her love of dogs means that dogs frequently show up in her books. Brinegar claims a fascination with time travel back to the 1940s as one of her hobbies, which no doubt accounts for the nostalgic pop references in her writing. Her other hobbies include the obvious—writing mysteries—and training to be a superspy (through her characters, of course). She gets inspiration for her characters and her mysteries from family, friends, and her home state. 


Pick up one of Brinegar’s cozy mysteries and smile your way through murder. 

Judy Alter, former director of TCU Press, is the prolific author of books, both historical and mysterious, mostly about Texas women. Her most recent mystery novel, Irene in Danger, was published in November, 2021.