In Murder in Christmas River by Meg Muldoon, Cinnamon Peters has been burned by life but fights to keep going, especially by entering the annual gingerbread mansion contest at her home in Christmas River and fighting to win. Then one night in early December, she sees a scraggly Australian shepherd come to her back door and feeds him scraps, but it takes her over a week of trying to gain his trust to get him to stick around. Then late one night, she sees the dog, whom she has named Huckleberry, come toward her, with a man who is very drunk following behind. He said that he felt the dog leading him to her. Recognizing the name as Daniel, the man who broke her heart as a teenager after kissing her and then disappearing upon the murder of his brother, she is curious that he doesn’t recognize her. Cinnamon gives Daniel a ride home, surprising him when she says goodbye to him by name. Then a couple nights later, Huckleberry returns, but this time Cinnamon realizes he wants her to follow him, and he leads her through the snow to find a pile of snow with a hand sticking out.
Daniel shows up for their prearranged date as Cinnamon is calling the police, taking her home since the woman is in shock. The next day he lets her know that the dead man is the longtime judge of the gingerbread house contest, a man who has been especially hard on Cinnamon, and he has been murdered. As he starts to question her further, Cinnamon wonders why he is asking such things and knows so many details about the case. He admits that he just left the police force in Fresno, California as a former lieutenant, to move back to his hometown of Christmas River, Oregon. So now he is helping the sheriff. And it soon becomes apparent that this sheriff thinks that Cinnamon committed the crime. Thus, she must try to clear her name, while at the same time working hard to win the contest and trying to rekindle a relationship with Daniel.
This book was enjoyable, but it is rather light on details. There are not many twists to the mystery plot, and I thought the solution rather weak. Probably the strongest detail of the book is the character and behavior of Huckleberry, the dog. He has a believable personality that endears him to us. The other characters in the book have less definition to them. The romance plot works fairly well, but it too seems a little thin.
I did enjoy the narration of Randye Kaye, who does a good job of helping us to relate to the book. I liked that part of the book.
Murder in Christmas River is a nice, gentle book. It is ideal for those who want to relax and not think too hard. But I wish it had more depth to it. So I give it three stars.