Author of medical mystery and mayhem
(with just a touch of pathological humor)
Reviews for The Twelve Murders of Christmas

Pacific Book Review

Title: The Twelve Murders of Christmas
Subtitle: A Toni Day Mystery
Author: Jane Bennett Munro
ISBN: 978-1953397058
Publisher: iUniverse
Pages: 338
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Reviewed by: Jake Bishop

The Twelve Murders Of Christmas is the seventh novel in the Toni Day Mystery series. While it would be advantageous to have some prior knowledge as it relates to multiple lead and supporting players in this mystery, it is definitely not required to still enjoy this involving thriller.
The protagonist, Toni Day, is a fifty-two-year-old pathologist who lives and plies her trade in Twin Falls, Idaho. Though she works for a hospital, she’s connected in more ways than one to the local police force. Her son-in-law, Pete, is a police detective who works under Bernie, a fellow who once harbored romantic feelings for Toni, and now is torn between being attracted to her and being annoyed by her frequent involvement in police business. Toni is aware of Bernie’s conflicted feelings and tries to avoid him whenever possible—since she’s now very happily married to Hal, her college professor husband.
As you might have guessed by the title, the backdrop for this beguiling murder mystery is the Christmas season. It all begins when Toni starts receiving makeshift Christmas cards in the mail constructed around the song, The Twelve Days of Christmas. Within each of these cards is a coded reference to someone’s death. It doesn’t take long for Toni to figure out that some sort of deranged serial killer is at work when bodies start to pile up. While each appears to be killed in a different way (to connect to verses in the song) it appears that the actual cause of death is almost always the same—pithing—a sharp object inserted into the base of the brain that kills by scrambling the brainstem.
Soon, one autopsy leads to another, as do the clues, and Toni becomes convinced that an old flame, who actually raped her and kidnapped her husband, is literally out to murder the twelve jurors who sent him to prison for his heinous crimes. It just so happens that he’s been paroled, and even though he’s calling her from time to time pleading his innocence, Toni’s less than convinced he has nothing to do with the killings. As multiple layers of the mystery are peeled back, we begin to have increased exposure to other individuals who might or might not be involved. There’s a handsome doctor that ladies swoon over but who frequently uses his hands for a good deal more than healing. There’s a female police detective who’s keeping her distance and perhaps a whole lot more from Toni. And there’s the local newspaper reporter who is on to this story like butter on a baked potato. He’s not about to let go regardless of the commotion his columns cause.
Author Munro is a writer working with confidence. She deftly straddles the worlds between domestic peace and professional discord. Her descriptions and obvious regard for meaningful familial obligations make the time she spends with her husband and relatives both memorable and enjoyable. The highly detailed, and at times stomach churning depictions of her professional work with the recently dead, is often a treasure trove of un-asked-for but incredibly interesting information.
Part cozy crime, part suspenseful thriller, this holiday whodunit will keep you turning pages until you know just who did what to whom and why. Plus it’s quite likely to spur your interest into looking into previous Toni Day mysteries. When it comes to murder and mayhem, the more the merrier. Happy Holidays.