Each December, the faculty of Balaclava Agricultural College goes wild with Christmas lights. The entire campus glitters with holiday decorations, save for one dark spot: the home of professor Peter Shandy. But after years of resisting the Illumination festival, Shandy snaps, installing a million-watt display of flashing lights and blaring music perfectly calculated to drive his neighbors mad. The horticulturalist flees town, planning to spend Christmas on a tramp steamer, but soon feels guilty about his prank and returns home to find his Christmas lights extinguished, and a dead librarian in his living room.Charlotte MacLeod is a mystery author known for her unconventional characters and outrageous plots. Rest You Merry, published in 1979, was her first mystery novel. It was followed by nine more in the Peter Shandy series, ending in 1996. While she was writing that series, she had three other series going. The Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn series was published under her own name. Under the pseudonym of Alisa Craig she wrote the Grub and Stakers series and a series featuring Detective Inspector Madoc Rhys of the Royal Canadian Mounties.
I really enjoyed this book when I first read it back in the eighties. I read the next two or three in the series and I read several of the Sarah Kelling series. Before that I had read comic mysteries by Donald Westlake. My propensity for humor in fiction must have disappeared along the way, because I don't seek that sub-genre of mystery out much and generally don't enjoy it when I do.
MacLeod's mysteries are mentioned in this interesting article on comic crime fiction at the website of the Whodunit? Mystery Bookstore:
MacLeod specialized in over-the-top characters with funny names, operating in strange situations. Her humour was very broad, hardly subtle, or to everyone’s taste. There were ten novels set in Balaclava College (beginning in 1978), an educational institution of higher learning in New England which bore no resemblance to any real operation I ever knew. Then there were twelve Kelling books, set in Boston and environs and featuring a very gutsy heroine with the most incredible cast of relatives it is possible to imagine.Between the two series, this first book in the Peter Shandy series is my favorite of the Charlotte MacLeod books, but the Sarah Kelling series appealed to me more overall. I haven't tried the series written as Alisa Craig, but I may try the one featuring the Royal Canadian Mounties.
- Les Blatt describes this novel as "a very amusing, very cozy mystery" in his review at Classic Mysteries.
- Margot Kinberg of Confessions of a Mystery Novelist puts the Spotlight on the second book in the Sarah Kelling series, The Withdrawing Room.
Publisher: Avon Books, 1978
Length: 215 pages
Series: Peter Shandy #1
Genre: Cozy mystery
Source: This copy purchased at the Planned Parenthood book sale, 2014.