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Santa Claus Surprise

Book 8 in the Holiday Cozy Mystery

Celebrate Good Crimes

In the heart of Holiday Junction, where festive cheer and snowflakes blanket the streets, journalist Violet Rhinehammer prepares for the most anticipated event of the year: the Mistletoe Masquerade Ball. However, the holiday mood is deeply marred when a chilling mystery comes to light. The gruesome discovery of a man, brutally murdered behind the living manger scene in Holiday Park, casts a dark shadow over the town’s festivities.

As Violet delves deeper into the case, her journalist instincts kick into overdrive, unearthing a list of suspects that could fill Santa’s naughty list twice over. With the missing Winter Crest coin entwined in the heart of this mystery and potential suspects lurking around every festive corner, Violet realizes she’s racing against the clock.

Can Violet solve the murder and recover the coin in time to save the Ball and preserve the holiday spirit? Or will this Santa Clause Surprise be the one that leaves the town with more chills than cheer?

Dear reader, if you love dogs, every holiday with all the holiday trimmings, and a cozy town, you’re going to love this new series by Tonya Kappes. It’s time to CELEBRATE GOOD CRIMES in the town of Holiday Junction! Just because it’s the holiday, doesn’t mean it’s free of crime and murder! But I can guarantee this series is clean with no foul language or gore. Each book can be read as a stands alone because each murder is wrapped up. Grab your cozy blanket and a cup of tea or coffee! It’s time to sleuth along Violet Rhinehammer and celebrate good crimes!

Santa Claus Surprise

Book 8 in the Holiday Cozy Mystery

Santa Claus Surprise


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Chapter One

The distant crowing of a rooster, loud and clear, broke through the chilly night air. It was odd to hear it at this hour, with the sky pitch-black and the world asleep.

“Ugh, what’s Dave the rooster up to now?” I muttered, trying to shift the weight of the heavy wooden jack-in-the-box Darren and I were lugging.

With every step, the oversized spring inside the box made the wooden Santa bob up and down, as if he, too, were chuckling at our predicament.

“I’ve no clue, Violet. Dave’s usually quiet until the sun comes up. But right now, let’s just focus on getting this thing to the park,” Darren replied, out of breath and panting slightly.

The sand crunched beneath our boots as we hurried along the beach path, doing our best to stay out of sight.

With every passing minute, I felt the weight of our secret responsibility as a pair of Holiday Junction’s secret Merry Makers. The Jingle Junction Jamboree was just days away, and we had to place this giant holiday sign to mark the grand finale.

Our destination was Holiday Park, a magical place during the Christmas season.

Even from a distance as we rounded the seaside sidewalk that went up the path from the sea to the downtown area, I could make out the lights of the massive tree that stood in the fountain’s usual place.

The cold, crisp air seemed to still for a moment. Then a sudden and surprisingly close rooster cry resounded, making both of us halt in our tracks. Dave’s crowing, louder and more insistent this time, sent a shiver down my spine.

“Why does it sound like he’s right around the corner?” I whispered, my breath turning to fog in the winter air.

“That’s just impossible, Violet. Dave’s post is by the airport. He shouldn’t be anywhere near here.” Darren squinted into the darkness, trying to spot any sign of the infamous rooster.

“He could’ve gotten out of Diffy’s office,” I said, knowing Diffy Delk, Dave’s owner, had an office in the business district just a few blocks north of here.

The festive lights from the park bathed the area in a soft, multicolored beam, creating a whimsical contrast to our current mystery. It was supposed to be a quiet, covert mission. Just place the sign then retreat into the shadows and let the townspeople enjoy the magic of the Jingle Junction Jamboree.

The tension grew with every crow from Dave.

“I’ve heard rumors,” Darren began, a mischievous glint in his eye, “that Dave isn’t your ordinary rooster. Some say he’s got a sixth sense, like he knows things.”

I chuckled, shaking my head. “Now you’re just trying to make me more spooked than I already am. Come on, let’s move. We’re almost at the park.”

With renewed urgency, we quickened our pace.

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of the lake. The swan paddleboats had cute light-up wreaths draped on them. They looked like they were dressed for a Christmas party.

As we passed by the amphitheater, I saw it appeared to be awaiting its Christmas pageant, and the scent of pine and cinnamon filled the air.

“Pay attention.” Darren brought my focus back to the task at hand. “We have to get this sign up. I’ve got a final in about four hours.”

Darren had decided to go back to law school. Over the past few months, he had been studying so hard for his semester final that we just never figured our Merry Maker duties into his schedule.

Being the Merry Maker wasn’t just any tradition. It was the tradition.

“We’re nearly there,” Darren whispered as we approached the park, the distant sound of waves crashing to the shore now entwined with Dave’s cock-a-doodle-doos.

Holiday Park served as a charming ending to downtown. Nestled at its very edge, the park melded seamlessly into the town’s vibrant heart.

From where we stood, the distant luminescence from the town’s boutique shops sparkled like stars. Along the main street, vintage carriage lights bathed the pathway in a warm, inviting halo, while pine wreaths with white lights, hung gracefully from ornate dowel rods, cast a merry atmosphere over the wintery scene.

And there was Holiday Park, a magical place during the Christmas season.

The massive Christmas tree stood where the fountain usually did. Next to it, a living manger scene added to the town’s festive spirit.

“Just a little more, Vi,” Darren encouraged, using the nickname he’d recently coined for me.

A warmth spread through me at the sound of the name. I had to admit, I liked the way “Vi” rolled off his tongue. It felt intimate, personal. And somehow, coming from Darren, it felt right.

“Only you get to call me that,” I teased, despite the heaviness of our load, positioning my hands for the last few feet. “I see the manger.”

The manger, even though currently vacant, radiated a serene ambiance. The beautifully crafted wooden structure had fresh hay scattered inside, awaiting its daytime occupants. The backdrop was painted with a starry night sky and a distant town, setting the perfect scene for the living nativity that would come alive during the day. Soft golden lights hung overhead, casting a gentle stream on the empty crib.

Or, rather, it should’ve been empty.

Darren and I shared a puzzled glance as Dave continued to crow. The rooster’s usually impeccable timing seemed way off tonight.

“Why on earth is he here?” I whispered, setting one corner of the heavy sign down. Darren mirrored my action on the other side, and together, we gently lowered the jack-in-the-box, Santa’s happy face bobbing, next to the manger.

As if on cue, the thick winter clouds overhead drifted apart and revealed the bright, full moon. It glistened over Holiday Park, the sparkling lights from downtown reflecting off the serene lake. The illuminated tree and the manger seemed to take center stage, bathed in the moon’s ethereal light.

Then I noticed it. A subtle shift in the shadows beneath the crib.

At first, I thought it might just be a trick of the light, or perhaps my eyes adjusting to the sudden brightness.

But as I squinted and stepped closer, the unmistakable form of a pair of legs, clad in dark trousers and worn shoes, emerged from under the crib.

The serene setting of Holiday Park, with its soft festive lights and tranquil ambiance, suddenly felt eerie and unsettling. I felt the chill of the winter night creep under my coat, and a tight knot formed in the pit of my stomach.

Darren noticed my gaze and followed it.

“Oh no,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper.

We moved closer together, our previous task of setting up the sign forgotten.

The joyous atmosphere of the upcoming Jingle Junction Jamboree transitioned into a palpable tension, and the discovery we were about to make threatened to cast a shadow over the entire festival.

end of excerpt

Santa Claus Surprise

is available in the following formats:

Tonya Kappes Books

Dec 17, 2023




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