Susan Henshaw’s friends from the country club are back from their Caribbean cruises and have gotten their minks out of storage, so it must be time for the annual Christmas cookie exchange, the even that kicks off the holiday season in her upscale Connecticut suburb.

For Susan, Christmas is all about cooking, baking, decorating, and entertaining, and readers who like a little domestic escapist fiction will enjoy the lavish descriptions of fancy holiday preparations.

But Susan’s Christmas is also about stress, excess, and difficult family and community relationships. When the cookie exchange at wealthy Evan’s ex-wife’s house is followed by a cocktail party at his new wife’s place — right next door — things are beginning to get tense. When Evan turns up at his ex-wife’s house with a bullet hole in his head, “tense” is not longer the word for it. And when the new wife storms over to see the body, only to find it missing, Susan has real mess on her hands.

Susan has to figure out where the body went and convince the police and the community that she wasn’t playing some tasteless prank when she reported it. She also has to cope with her kids, her husband, her in-laws, her friends, her neighbors, and way too much Christmas shopping for one person to handle.

Valerie Wolzien’s series of mysteries starring Susan Henshaw are well plotted and engaging, and this one is especially fun. See our Star System review.