What better Christmas surprise for detective-in-training Flavia de Luce than a dreadful murder under Buckshaw's roof - and a snowbound house full of suspects!
It's Christmas time, and our beloved Flavia is tucked away in her laboratory whipping up a sticky concoction to trap that infamous sneak, Saint Nick, and thereby prove once and for all - despite the claims of her evil sisters - that he does exist. But she is soon distracted from her task: Colonel de Luce, in desperate need of funds, has rented the family's crumbling manor house to a film company for the holidays. When its crew arrives from London to shoot a movie starring the reclusive and renowned actress, Phyllis Wyvern, there's no end to the disruptions - and dramas - demanding Flavia's attention.
When Wyvern is convinced to perform a famous scene to help raise funds for the local church, it is decided that Buckshaw Manor is the only suitable location. Its foyer alone is bigger than the parish hall, and could fit every man, woman, and child in Bishop's Lacey, to a soul. It's almost Christmas Eve, but - to no one's surprise - all of the village inhabitants fight their way through a raging snowstorm to be in the audience that magical night.
As the actors take to the stage, however, the blizzard sets in, and it becomes clear that the villagers will have to hunker down at Buckshaw for the night. Sleeping head to toe in the de Luces' foyer seems amenable to most, until word spreads of the evening's shocking conclusion - Phyllis Wyvern is found strangled to death in the Blue Bedroom, with a length of film from one of her movies tied in an elaborate bow around her neck.
But who among the assembled guests would stage such a chilling scene? As the storm worsens and the list of suspects grows, Flavia must use every ounce of her chemical cleverness and crime-solving prowess to ferret out a killer hidden in plain sight. But when she does piece the puzzle together and deduce who has committed this twisted crime, will Flavia be able to escape in one piece?
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by Alan Bradley
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