For years, Professor Peter Shandy has been badgered by Jemima Ames, Assistant Librarian and Annual Chairperson, to decorate his campus home for the Grand Illumination which is Balaclava Agricultural College's main fund-raising event. Now he can hold out no longer.
Goaded to madness, he buries his small brick house under an avalanche of plastic reindeer, flashing lights, and fake Santa Clauses. Hooks up an amplifier blaring "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth," locks the switches at "on", and escapes to sea on a tramp steamer.
Shipwrecked and conscience-stricken, he crawls back to face his irate colleagues, and finds Jemima Ames dead on his living room floor. Police and security guards say it's an accident; Shandy says it's murder. President Thorkjeld Svenson says he'd better find out the truth without wrecking the Illumination... or the next corpse will be Shandy's.
©1993 Charlotte McLeod (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
I'm so glad Charlotte MacLeod's mysteries are finally available in audio! I first read this story centuries ago - probably shortly after it was published in 1978 - and I've re-read it every few years since.
The story is set at a small, private agricultural college in New England. At the opening, Professor Peter Shandy has finally decided to take his revenge on all the faculty wives who have been after him for years to decorate his small house for the holidays as part of the college's "Grand Illumination". He hires a firm from Boston to put every flashing colored light, plastic Santa & reindeer, and recorded music device he can fit on his house, sets the timer, and takes off on a holiday cruise! He comes back a few days later to find one of the most persistent busy-bodies dead on his living room floor. It's meant to look like an accident but Shandy knows it can't be, and his efforts to figure out what really happened are the basis of the mystery. Along the way we are introduced to some of the people that live in the small college town of Balaclava - and they have more than their fair share of interesting characters!
This is a classic cozy mystery, the first in a series that is well worth reading or listening to. Some elements are rather dated at this point - no cell phones, for example, and some characters have somewhat dated views - but don't let that bother you. Enjoy meeting the residents of Balaclava, and look forward to more of their exploits!
The narrator of this audio is easy to listen to. He doesn't differentiate the character's voices very much, but it's still easy to keep track of what's going on. One irritant, however, is that he mispronounces words every once in a while, and it can be jarring to the ear. For example, he used the word "crochets" (the needlework) rather than "crotchets" (a quirk or eccentricity). But all in all, a great book to listen to!
Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
I chose this book based on the editor's summary hinting at some fun with the set-up of the off-the-chart Christmas decoration prank, and the hope of a fun Christmas based mystery. But all the fun was perfunctorily disposed of within a few paragraphs in the first chapter, and the rest of the story dissolves into a mediocre (and not so fun) TV movie style mystery.
While the secret behind the murders and mayhem on the Balaclava Campus turns out to be an interesting one, the process of getting to the truth is a tiresome exploration of pompous, self important academics and nitwit law enforcement personnel who don't even bother to investigate. The author has absolutely no ear for dialogue that real people would speak, filling the conversations with "I daresay you are right", "may I dare to hope that you are she?", "by my stars and garters", and (I kid you not) "By Yumpin' Yiminnie". The only way to tolerate this amateurish attempt is to pretend it's the screenplay for a "Murder She Wrote" episode and expect nothing more in the way of character development or suspense.
Narrative makes the world go round.
This may not get you in a Christmas spirit, but it can ease X-mas headaches. It's a humourous, light campus cozy with a thread of old-fashioned romance.
No offence intended to Americans, but the few U.S. "campus comedies" and campus cozies I've come across just don't compare to most in the British "campus" tradition. Rest You Merry holds it own in both sub-sub-genres. Maybe McLeod's Canadian colonial genes helped her out there!
I've listened to at least one of each of the three MacLeod series on Audible and one other Prof Shandy mystery. This is my favourite to date. I enjoyed the narration. As someone points out in a later Shandy instalment review, McLain produces a couple of weird mispronunciations of isolated and pretty common words. This makes me think he may be site reading, which just raises my admiration for his talent.
As I'm not a fan of Christmas books, I almost skipped this -- but if you like cozies or campus comedies, this will delight no matter the season.
Charlotte MacLeod is my favorite cozy mystery writer. I have read Rest You Merry and the other books in the Peter Shandy series a number of times - I wouldn't change anything.
As other reviewers have noted, the narrator pronounced certain words very strangely, to the extent that I'm not sure if he is a native English speaker. This audio book was less of a performance and more of a straight reading of the novel by someone who didn't really know what it was about or who the characters were supposed to be. You need a very particular kind of narrator for a cozy mystery that gets its color from quirky, not-quite-realistic characters and stylized, old-fashioned dialogue, and unfortunately Mr. McLain doesn't quite hit the mark.
This is a frothy, enjoyable cozy, in accordance with my own rules for cozies: the murder(s) take place off camera, the victim is unattractive, the murderers more so, and the whole thing is intended more as entertainment than mental puzzle. Those who take exception to MacLeod's writing and dialogue for being unrealistic are entirely missing the point, and if you don't like a little goofiness in your reading matter, you won't like this. But if you have a taste for the absurd and you like wittiness rather than grittiness, you'll like this.
Absolutely not, due to the deficiencies of the narration. Charlotte MacLeod's charming characters, interesting settings, and intriguing stories are always a delight to visit and re-visit in one's imagination. The details of place and person she provides in all her books are especially pleasing in the Peter Shandy series, so unfortunately maligned by the narration in the audiobooks by a reader who has no "feel" for the character of Peter and must never have been exposed to the dialects of rural Massachusetts, substituting for these a variety of bogus Southern accents which would be insulting to anyone born south of the Mason-Dixon line, let alone to the unique, centuries-old prosody of New England.
Most moments of the book, as in the others in the series, are memorable, thanks to the craft, language, and flow of one well-defined scene of the book into the next, making the reader feel as if he is part of the life in Balaclava County and of Professor Shandy's.
Under no circumstances, even if the books were free. His portrayal of the well-written characters of the Peter Shandy books is deficient in talent, warmth, and dimension. "Mmmm," Peter might say, "my stars and garters, the churl misses the mark entirely." The narrator merely reads the words; his attempt to differentiate among characters consistently parodies and perverts rather than animates and breathes life into them.
Not only did I want to do so, I did listen to it all in one sitting, as I inevitably first read, and now re-read, the original books themselves. Though I was unable to enter into the "suspension of disbelief" that makes a reader part of the author's world as I do when reading the books, I was still drawn into the story and all its ramifications, down to the appropriate use of "shall" and "should" in the first person instead of the ubiquitous "I will" and "I would" in future-tense forms and the author's obvious mastery of literature in the level of literacy in the two main characters.
In spite of the calamitous short-comings of the narrator-cum-word-reader, I have purchased most of this series because, as I said, I have the characters and their inflections firmly fixed in my mind and can at least enjoy the unfolding of the Shandy chronicles during my two-hour daily commute. A question I have seen on other reviews is the viability of making the book into a movie. There is no way that this book or others in the series, except perchance "The Curse of the Giant Hogweed," could be translated on film. Peter's ruminations and gentle unraveling of the central problem, with emphasis on his special community of friends, colleagues, and rural county settings and phenomena, are the foundation of the joy in this series, ones not reproducible in movies, tv, and unfortuately, audiobooks. MacLeod also has the gift, shared by a few other memorable writers, of creating believable secondary characters and situations that she interweaves with the main story line and of engendering endings that, like real life, extend beyond the resolution of the main problem in each book. Thus, the reader is given the extra satisfaction of the continuation of life beyond the story resolution--in what may have seemed mere associates to the plot--in characters he has become fond of and interested in.
The setting in a small agricultural school and the humor of the professor turned unwilling detective make this book a great read. Add a little romance and you have it all.
Yes. I read and loved the print version years ago and was delighted to find an old friend in the Audible library. I have been an avid reader all my life, but find that I enjoy audio books even more than print - especially when they are done well, as this one is.
The mystery is good and keeps the reader guessing and suspecting first one and then another until the very end, but the true charm is in Professor Shandy himself. His over-the-top reaction to the demands to decorate his house for Christmas have been a favorite memory of mine for years. If it seems a little harsh, this is quickly balanced by his remorse when he realizes the aftermath of his action - as well as his fear of the reprisals that are likely to come his way.
Nothing terrible about this book. It's cozy and comfortable for those who like to feel superior to others, the fall guys, those who take holiday trappings too seriously, talk too much and want too much from others. Unless all that bothers you (meaning you're a better person than I), this is a fine book to drift off to on an otherwise sleepless night, a murder mystery that cares not a wit about the victim and sees the killer as a tasteless clown.
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