Have you ever looked at that classic Norman Rockwell picture of Thanksgiving where the bird is about to meet its end at the utensils of all the happy family at the table and seen something sinister going on? What might possibly lurk behind those smiles? Is a smile on one or more at the table just a little too forced? Maybe you think the picture is fine. Maybe your own family is a cause to contemplate a little holiday murder. You get the family you are born into, but who says some of them don’t need taking out?
That is the premise behind The Killer Wore Cranberry series from Untreed Reads. The offering this year titled The Killer Wore Cranberry: Room For Thirds is another good one featuring twisted–and often murderous–behavior on and around Thanksgiving. While none of the stories actually deals with the real rage behind Thanksgiving (premature Christmas music and advertising) the stories are still good ones. The book this year also features three recipes of her own from author Lisa Wagner for Pumpkin Cranberry Pancakes, Cranberry Chutney, and Apple Cranberry Pie.
After an introduction by editor J. Alan Hartman, the stories begin with “Stuffed” by Toni Goodyear. George knew his wife Sharon was cheating on him before listening to it happening on his surveillance gear. She is misbehaving at the house of Brian Welling. Brian is a neighbor and supposed to be his friend. It started weeks ago and George did notice it happening despite his wife’s often repeated claims that George never notices anything. George is going to make sure this Thanksgiving is one for all to remember.
It is just days before Thanksgiving in 1969 and Aunt Nozzie, short for Aunt Rosalind, has decided to go into business out of her kitchen making jams, sauces, and the like. If that wasn’t bad enough she has summoned Darcie to come home to Illinois for Thanksgiving as well as to help with the cooking. The last thing Darcie wants to do is do that as when she comes home for Thanksgiving somebody gets murdered. But, you do what you have to do for your favorite Aunt in “A Saucy Kind Of Holiday” by Lesley A. Diehl.
The next story titled “The Corner Suite” by Elizabeth Hosang is punctuated for narration though it reads as if it is all dialogue from an elderly woman. Through the piece we learn of her plans for plants, food, and a certain room she has wants at the retirement home.
The fictional cooking show on a cable channel that serves as background for “Operation Knock Her Down a Peg” by Barb Goffman could certainly be a real one. Darkly funny, it tells the tale of the plan of one cousin to teach another cousin her place by way of an inedible Thanksgiving dinner. Easier said than done in so many ways.
It was all the fault of the moonshine. Saturday night moonshine drinking has led the idea of stealing a pig in “A Pig in a Poke” by Herschel Cozine. Lem is tired of having turkey every Thanksgiving and wants something different this year. His not so brilliant idea is to go swipe a pig from the pen at Barlow’s place. The idea was bad enough, but the execution is way worse.
“Mama Made Kugel” by Barbara Metzger is next. Kugel was the only thing Mama ever made right. She has been missing seven years now, has been declared dead, and her daughter, Mira, wants this Thanksgiving done the right way with Mama’s Kugel. She still can’t find her mama’s recipe loose leaf binder so she can’t do things like Mama would have if she was there. Instead, she has to put up with caters and various relatives she could easily do without. It’s going to be a very special Thanksgiving—just not the way Mira intended.
The Reverend Blister B. Bullet is face down in his mashed potatoes in the dining room of the retirement home. The potatoes are not why he died. The big kitchen knife that is embedded in his neck did the deed in the often amusing “The Mashed Potato/Cranberry Thanksgiving Murder Case” by Big Jim Williams. According to Police Detective Sedgwick Segway, known as “Scooter” to his fellow officers, it is also clear that:
“’Judging by the angle of the Knife” continued Segway,” I’d say he was murdered by either a right-or left handed killer.’”
Coming late to the Thanksgiving dinner was a good idea in “The Bells of Saint Marie” by Randall Dewitt. More can’t be said without ruining the twisted and often very funny read.
Humor is also present in “You Say Potato” by Sarafina Gravagno. Uncle Jim is dead and Miss Hartigan blames the yams. Those yams are what started everything off in this complicated tale.
Morris knew his day was very strange when the vegetables started talking to him. First, it was the potato he was about to pull out of the ground as “Vegetables Aren’t Good For You!” by Laird Long begins. Then the pumpkins did it, the peas did it, and then the turkeys headed for him while chanting “Eat me-at, Morris.” Then, things really went bad.
Maybe it was food poisoning or maybe it was something else in “Blame it on the Chef” by Rhett Shepard. Dad tries different things every Thanksgiving because he thinks he is an amateur gourmet chief. Sometimes there are bathroom casualties, but nobody ever actually died before though they may have felt like it. Uncle Jeb is most definitely dead and the why and the how will take the Police and Kathleen to figure out.
We have all had really cheap pens stop working at inopportune times. The pens that Tom swiped from work are really bad ones. So he didn’t take the phone message down correctly in “It’s All in the Timing” by Warren Bull. Much like the first proverbial domino in a row that, when touched starts off the cascading chain, Tom’s failure to get the message correct triggered a cascade of events that culminated in one heck of a Thanksgiving dinner.
Trish is trying to finish setting up Thanksgiving dinner, but Crease keeps swiping tastes in “Diminishing Returns” by Lee Hammerschmidt. He has plans and isn’t sticking around for dinner. Trish is going to need more wine and help with to deal with this.
Cletus Harper believes broccoli is the devil’s food. Maybe if Flo hadn’t gone and ruined his cheese by sticking broccoli in it, nothing would have happened. She did it, he has his shotgun, and she is outside screaming about him to the neighbors in “Cheese it, The Cops” by Sharon Daynard.
The whole point of leaving Oakland and moving to Nowhere, Alaska, was to get away from the homicides. The place only has 32 residents. Now its population has been reduced by two thirds and a former cop is supposed to figure it all out in “Fowl Play” by Mary Mackey.
Doing the Thanksgiving Dinner and dealing with all the assorted guests was bad enough in “Next Year, the Lotus Garden” by Mary Patterson Thornburg. Kate had tried to get Mack to go to the Lotus Garden and break the Thanksgiving disaster cycle and he wouldn’t. Now she has to put everybody up for the night and maybe longer as a brutal winter storm has descended on the area in the final story of the book.
Brief bios of the 17 authors involved bring the book to a close.
The Killer Wore Cranberry: Room For Thirds is another solidly good installment of the series. No matter how tough your own relatives are, they should not come close to these fictional ones depicted in the often darkly funny stories. If they do, you have inspirational material for the next installment, but be sure to be very careful on the research angle. As some of these characters found out, planning is very important and discovery of your intentions beforehand can be disastrous.
The Killer Wore Cranberry: Room For Thirds
Editor: J. Alan Hartman
167 Pages (estimated)
Material supplied by Editor J. Alan Hartman for my use in an objective review.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2013
Mind Slices and Carpathian Shadows, Volume II
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