The Christmas season brings lots of surprises to Annie Laurance Darling, including the return of her father, Pudge, who walked out on her when she was just a little girl. Pudge has come home not only to reconcile with Annie but also to make peace with the family of another ex-wife.

Annie does her best to get along with her father and finds it easy for Pudge is very charming. As the days go by, Annie also finds herself involved with Pudges other family, headed by the glamorous movie star, Marguerite Dumaney. That family is not a happy one, though, and there is constant bickering.

When a member of that family is murdered, Pudge becomes the most likely suspect. Although he was anything but a fit father he doesnt quite fit the portrait of cold-blooded killer. Putting aside any reservations she might have, Annie goes all out to clear her father.

SUGAR PLUM DEAD is sheer delight, a treasure for the lover of classic mysteries. All the trappings, the large unhappy family, the mysterious stranger, etc., are here and done up in fine style. As refreshing as an autumn breeze, SUGAR PLUM DEAD is another feather in Ms. Harts cap. (Oct., 352 pp., $24.00)

Reviewed by: 
Toby Bromberg