In what has become a welcomed annual tradition, Editor J. Alan Hartman and Untreed Reads have a new edition of their annual crime filled Thanksgiving anthology. The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Fourth Meal of Mayhem features ten stories, three recipes, and tales of chaos and mayhem often with a touch or considerably more of humor. Like the previous books in the series, all the tales are set on or just before Thanksgiving so there are plenty of mentions of food to make you hungry.

After a short introduction by the editor and a recipe by his sister, Lisa Wagner, for “Breakfast Pumpkin Bread” it is on to the stories. First up is “A Foolish Fowl’s Thanksgiving/Cranberry Murder Case” by Big Jim Williams. Heavy on the humor is this tale where an ongoing argument between Herbert and Myrtle Clapsaddle as they talk with a young newspaper reporter is interrupted by a member of the local constabulary. Police Detective First Class Sedgwick Segway has received a trip there is to be a murder at the Clapsaddle farm and is there to check it out.

Life was good as Thanksgiving approached in 1970. Darcie had her PhD, she had the position of assistant professor at a public university in upstate New York, and had gotten rid—-by way of divorce—her lush of a husband. Then Aunt Nozzie called and there was no escape from having to go home for Thanksgiving in “Leave It To Cleaver” by Lesley Diehl.

“The Tater Tot Caper” by Sandra Murphy comes next. Mary is already not thrilled with the stress of cooking and all for Thanksgiving and now their girls are playing lets meet the parents with their boyfriends. She would much rather sit and read some of her new books that arrived than deal with all the relatives and their dietary issues, the new boyfriends, and all the rest of it. Her husband Jim isn’t going to be any help as usual because only football is on his mind. At least she has wine to help her deal with everything though there may not be enough wine to handle this year’s chaos and mayhem.

A Sheriff Mollie Goodall story is always a treat. Thankfully Texas author Earl Staggs gives us another with the highly entertaining “Turkey Tuesday.” Thanksgiving is six days away and 800 turkeys destined for the tables of the less fortunate in the area have been stolen from Ashburn’s Grocery Store. They can’t be replaced at this late date. The missing frozen turkeys simply have to be found and the clock is ticking.

A recipe for “Easy Bread Stuffing” by Lisa Wagner comes next. This is probably not time to admit this family uses always stuffing mix out of a box. The gravy comes from a jar. The cranberry sauce comes from a can too.

“Bogged Down” by Barbara Metzger comes next. Last year’s Thanksgiving had been pretty bad so this year’s simply has to be better. It can’t be worse. At least this year she is staying home with her new dog, new friends, and hopefully a new tradition. That is until Jann talks her into picking cranberries in the nearby cranberry bogs. They got some berries and quite a more in Jann’s desire to avoid the canned stuff.

Stan the Dentist has gone to Thanksgiving dinner with Moe Sabatini and his fellow members of organized crime before. While receptionist Mindy is horrified in “More Good Times” by Steve Shrott that Stan would go to Moe’s mansion for Thanksgiving ever again, Stan sees the mobsters as just your average run of the mill patients needing dental work. It is just business and business has been slow. Stan likes to keep his patients happy and when they are good he gives out toys. The mobster guys really like bobbleheads.

Rob Chirico comes next with his highly entertaining homage “Murder on the Side (with apologies to Raymond Chandler). It was hot that November morning of 1952 in Los Angeles. It was a Wednesday beneath the smog-laden pall. The beautiful curves walked into his Marlowe’s office. As beautiful as she is Mrs. Mary Jones should have a perfect life. Instead, she has a problem and she wants Marlowe’s help.

The next client is also beautiful when she trots into the private investigator’s office in “Talk, Turkey” by Laird Long. The face nobody would love, but they would love her body. Tina is not only a talking turkey, she has a presidential pardon. Whoever is after her cares about neither in this amusing tale.

Just in case you were not hungry enough by this point Lisa Wagner comes next with another recipe. This time it is one for “Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies.”

Joanie is at her Mama’s bedside in “It’s A Trap” by Barb Goffman. Mama wanted to die at home and she is about to get that wish as the time is near. Mama also wants Joanie to forgive Elaine. It is her final dying wish. That won’t be easy as there are numerous scores to settle from the past and present.

Having a wedding the same time as Thanksgiving has seemed to be a good idea according to her sister, Alicia. She has been married a few times before and plans on doing it again this year in “Thanksgiving in Moderation” by Debra H. Goldstein. Not that she has made good marriage choices in recent years, but the guy this year, Philippe, seems especially problematic in this final story of the anthology.

Author bios bring this entertaining installment to a close.

The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Fourth Meal of Mayhem continues the fine tradition of recipes as well as short stories featuring crazed relatives, talking turkeys as well as dead and about to be dead ones, and mayhem during the Thanksgiving season. No doubt inspired by a few relatives the writer’s involved in this year’s anthology have done very well for themselves in crafting these word feasts. The reader’s only problem is how to get through the book without feeling hungry.

The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Fourth Meal of Mayhem
Edited by J. Alan Hartman
Untreed Reads Publishing
October 2014
E-Book (Paperback available)
145 Pages (estimated)
Material supplied by the editor in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2014

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