"Dying for a Decoration" by Cindy Sample: Review/Giveaway

 Review by Cynthia Chow

 Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win an ebook copy of this book and a link to purchase it.

Even though it’s Christmastime in Placerville, California, Laurel McKay Hunter wasn’t expecting to find a six-foot tall elf standing in front of her private detective agency. Also not on her holiday to-do list was being hired to track down a reindeer herd. The first can be explained by the community theater production of “Elf,” which has Laurel’s friend Stan taking over the lead role after an accident involving a ladder took out both the star and the understudy. The latter assignment comes to Laurel through her grandmother’s friend Milton, whose entire display of hand-carved reindeer has disappeared from his front lawn. An additional case that causes Laurel to endure a hair-related bangs incident at the local Cut and Curl salon is also related to her grandmother, whose Tinder activity has her dating a suspiciously handsome man 30 years her junior.

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Milton Fisher’s holiday-decor theft takes precedence when he is attacked and lands in the hospital, especially since his aspiring Influencer grandson arrives with questions about the estate. Thankfully, Gold Country Investigations has become something of a family business, with Laurel’s husband and stepfather her partners while her 18-year-old daughter Jenna begins work as an intern on her way to a career in law enforcement. Laurel’s mother seeming to grow bored with her life as a realtor doesn’t bode well for Laurel’s sanity, especially when poor Yelp reviews threaten her mother’s dominance over sales. Local politics, real estate shenanigans, and being roped into playing a dancing elf will have Laurel almost looking forward to the mandatory dinner at her mother’s. Almost.

This ninth in the series includes all the hilarious banter and engaging characters readers have come to expect from this reliable author. Some of the best scenes are those depicting the good-natured teasing between Laurel and her husband, who are so relatable as an affectionate married couple. Juggling the parenting of two nine-year-old children with dog care and additional babysitting for friends only has them appreciating their extended family and friends all the more, even if they sometimes bring along an additional heaping of chaos. Laurel’s ex-husband Hank, who is still Gran’s questionable roommate, has somehow grown to be a helpful part of their lives, with his affability and handyman skills making up for his habit of dropping by during mealtimes.

This being a Christmas mystery, recipes are required and those for O’Henry bars stir up all the warm feelings of nostalgia. It looks as though detective skills run in Laurel’s family, and there is no better satisfaction than seeing three generations of women track down criminals and snag a culprit. This is definitely a stocking stuffer for mystery fans and those looking for a very clever and funny holiday read.

To enter to win an ebook copy of Dying for a Decoration, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line "decoration,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 16, 2023. US residents only and you must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via comment please include your email address so we can contact you. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section in Kings River Life and in our mystery category here on KRL News & Reviews. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. And check out our new mystery podcast which features mystery short stories and first chapters read by local actors! A new episode goes up next week.

You can use this link to purchase the book or click here. If you have adblocker on you may not be able to see the Amazon link:

Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).
 Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. Sounds like a great holiday read.

  2. Great Cover!
    karen94066 at aol.com


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