Thanks to the success of the first anthology, J. Alan Hartman of Untreed Reads decided to do it again. As a result the anthology “The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Second Helping” was born. The book features 17 short stories by 17 authors set around Thanksgiving in some way. After a short introduction by Jay Hartman about the books, this one in particular, it is on to the stories.

The book opens with “Reign Check” by Arthur C. Carey where George Simmons is out in his barren Iowa cornfield on a mission with his dog, Lucy. The field has been picked clean, but his wife, Emiline, wants some ears of corn for a Thanksgiving decoration.  Emiline, his grown daughter, Alma, and the grandkids are back at the house working on getting the Thanksgiving dinner ready.  George can’t wait to get back, but things are going to conspire against him in this twisted and very funny tale.

“Thursday Night at Pins and Pub” by John Weagly follows next with Waylon Preston complaining to Billy Weston that there never is enough gravy. About the only thing Waylon does not put gravy on is pumpkin pie as he really likes gravy.  In the small town of Currie Valley there just is not a lot to do. The local bowling alley having some beers is the only place the brothers have to be on Thanksgiving. Everybody knows everybody which makes the suddenly missing tip at the bar even more important.

Sheriff Mollie Goodall is back in “Justice for Elijah” written by two time Derringer winner Earl Staggs. It’s Thanksgiving Day and Sheriff Mollie is covering the office while everyone is off.  Her husband, Lilburn, is at home cooking which is very good thing as he loves to cook and is good at it.  Elijah Curry is not only one very dirty boy in appearance; he also has a complicated tale of murder that crosses the Watango, Texas county lines.

For some strange reason Mary had to go and marry a vegan. That makes Thanksgiving complicated, but folks have to try and be civil to each other. Maybe he wouldn’t be so thin and cranky in “All in the Family” by Amanda Lundberg if he actually ate some meat. Messing with the Thanksgiving turkey was not cool in this often funny tale that touches on several Thanksgivings and some serious holiday stress.

For the Miller Clan Thanksgiving is the time to celebrate politics and PACs and the entire election process. Politics and collecting power is the life blood of the family. They start them young in “Campaign Seasoning” by Betsy Bitner and skills for their corner of upstate New York. The traditional meal and accompanying jokes were always the same until Alexa came along after marrying into the family. Helen doesn’t trust her one bit.

S. Furlong-Bolliger is up next the often funny story “The Over the Hill Gang.” Back in the day the Hill Gang was a force to be feared. These days there are just a few of them left and that made Deputy Dalton decide there was no need to round up posse. After having Thanksgiving dinner earlier in the day, Deputy Dalton set out in pursuit in this western treat. Even at their worst, the gang never murdered anyone. That has changed as the sheriff dead and Deputy Dalton is going to bring his killer to justice. The question is – which aged criminal did it?

Stan is going to Thanksgiving dinner in “Good Times” by Steve Shrott. He does not think it is any big deal though his red headed receptionist Mindy clearly disagrees.

“’Look, I’m just going to a Thanksgiving dinner, that’s all.

“Yeah, with guys who kill people just cause they slurp their soup too loud.’”

She thinks it is bad idea, but Stan, the dentist, needs to keep all his patients happy as times are hard. Easier said than done at this dinner where paranoia can kill.

Andrew MacRae is up next with “Felony at Farquhar Farms.”  It really puts a damper on the festivities when the cook runs from the kitchen screaming. It gets worse when the cook drops to the polished oak floor in the foyer. Apparently, someone is dead and Constable Pratt will have a number of suspects once he arrives by bicycle. Constable Pratt is going to be busy in this often funny tale of romance and mystery.

Thanksgiving dinner at Mickey’s Grandmother’s house in Camden, Maine is always potluck because she can only make on dish.  She can only make Waldorf salad in this tale titled “Secret Ingredients” by Zoe Burke.  Unfortunately, neighbor Margaret Langenfeld is dead and the mayonnaise in the salad may have done it. Annabelle isn’t so sure.

Ella and Emma Mullen are twin sisters in “Green Beans & Murder” by Arlen Blumhagen.  Opposite as possible the twins don’t get along at all. Now, Mullen’s twin daughters are missing.  A small town in Montana means somebody local had to do it and Sheriff Cody Gillen is stumped in this twisted story.

It is 1964 and a week before Thanksgiving as “Mashed in the Potatoes” by Lesley A. Diehl opens. There was an incident at Thanksgiving last year and Aunt Nozzie has a plan to prevent a repeat this Thanksgiving. Darcie, her boyfriend, Ken, and Barb will go and luck Ken will experience the Thanksgiving dinner at Aunt Nozzle’s house. No matter how much he is told, he has no idea what he is in for. Good thing Aunt Nozzle has a full bar.

“They eDone Him Wrong” by Gail Farrelly is next. If Uncle Ryan had just kept his mouth shut, except for eating, he would still be 74 and alive. Instead, he ticked everyone off and is now a 74 year old dead man. You could learn something here if you talk a lot in this tale told from the perspective of an e-reader.

Apparently Thanksgiving has been pretty rough for the Fillmore family the last couple of years in “I Yam What I Yam” by Herschel Cozine. First Grandpa Bert died and was laid to rest in the basement. Last year Uncle Lazarus died from arsenic poisoning and was shelved in the basement. Thanksgiving time again and the question is–can they all survive it?

“Talking Turkey” by Linda S. Reilly follows next with sisters Flo and Effie who are arguing over whether or not this is the year Tommy the turkey gets it. Flo wants the turkey dead and can almost taste it as she tells her sister over and over again. Effie is adamant that the turkey is family and has been since, as a baby, it survived the great storm in ‘08. But, as anyone in any family knows, the fight over the turkey is over bigger issues then the turkey or even sibling rivalry.

Frank wants to rob a liquor store on Thanksgiving as a family holiday tradition and wants his wife’s help in “Drumsticks Can be Deadly” by Stephen D. Rogers. After all, he never said word one when Laurie would visit her parents on Thanksgiving last year. It is a great plan too.  Neither one can testify against each other because they are married. Junior in his diapers can’t do anything beyond baby talk.  Old Man Gruber is the perfect target.  It’s a great plan even despite a possible curse.

Thanksgiving is going to be very different this year with Grandpa dead. Grandmother has come a long way in the funny “Murder a la Mode” by Barb Goffman.  But, her new lifestyle is way too revealing according to Felicity and as long as they stay in the car she and Thomas won’t have to deal with it. If they leave right away and never go to the door they can be back in Atlanta where they belong in 90 minutes.

“Perfect Pumpkin Pie” by Laura Hartman brings the collection to a close.  Sharon isn’t at all happy that Mason went and invited his mother and Aunt Lilly over for Thanksgiving. Their dinners have always been perfect over the years and Sharon feels she can’t complete. The fact that her mother-in-law hates her won’t help things.

While Thanksgiving dinner is often the scene of crime, the reasons and the suspects vary tremendously in this often funny book of short stories. The 17 tales here are good ones featuring complexity and variety in styles and situations. Some tales are fairly serious while others start the reader laughing from the first sentence. The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Second Helping is a solidly good read

The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Second Helping

Editor J. Alan Hartman

Untreed Reads

October 2012

Kindle E-Book

(estimated print length 162 Pages)


Material supplied by Brendan Seibel of Untreed Reads for my objective review.

Reviewer Note:

I have explained before that Earl Staggs and I are in the same local writing group. I was privileged to see early drafts of his story and had very minimal input.  Furthermore, in the interests of full disclosure, Earl Staggs is the only author in this collection I have any contact like that regarding his or her work. None of the other stories were read by me at any point before reading them in this book.

I also do not have any work under consideration at Untreed Reads and currently have no plans at all to submit something. That would require me to be working on my own fiction. I have not been doing that for quite some time beyond what took me months to do regarding MIND SLICES.



Kevin R. Tipple ©2012

Author of the e-book short story collection Mind Slices available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords in a variety of formats.
Contributor to the Carpathian Shadows, Volume II anthology available in print and e-book.
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