MAD AS THE DICKENS
Transplanted southerner Laura Fleming would be more than happy to spend the Christmas holidays in her new hometown of Boston, but when her family puts out a call for help, the pregnant Laura and her husband, Richard, find themselves in Byerly, North Carolina for the holidays. They find that a local production of "A Christmas Carol" is in the works and Richard, an English professor, is going to do the directing.
The production is in such a poor state that the generally mild Richard can't help but have conniptions. However, as bad as things are, they get worse when Seth Murdstone, cast as Scrooge, is murdered on the set. What can Richard do? Opening night isn't too far in the future.
Laura, who has no role in the production, turns her fine hand to crime solving. With the help of her very unorthodox family, she begins to delve into the dead man's past, unearthing a poignant secret and a motive for murder. It's been far too long since Ms. Kelner has given us a new Laura Fleming story, but the wait has been worth it. This is sparkling entertainment with a great storyline and an utterly charming cast of characters. (Available now, 278 pp., $22.00)