The Claus Will Come Out

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Christmas bells are ringing in postcard-perfect Aspen Falls, Colorado, and the sound is music to veterinarian Dr. Ashley Hart’s ears. However, it’s harder to hear the latest village news—that notorious bargain hunter Suzette Bellamy has died under suspicious circumstances and one of Ashley’s favorite clients, estate sale planner Lucinda Costello, was the last person to see the persnickety older woman alive.

A dedicated collector frequenting antiques shops and garage sales for years, Suzette hoarded scandalous secrets as enthusiastically as the collectibles she was preparing to sell through Lucinda. But when the infamous frenemy’s secret keeping veered toward blackmail, did someone on Suzette’s naughty list kill her to keep their skeletons safely in the closet?

Convinced that Lucinda is innocent of any wrongdoing despite her close proximity to the crime, Ashley takes a break from decking her halls to uncover a killer. Unfortunately, nothing about this case is clear cut, and Ashley can’t help but second-guess herself at every turn. Desperate to solve the murder and absolve her friend before anyone else gets hurt, Ashley struggles to untangle the clues she herself has collected. If she doesn’t tread carefully, however, someone might just silence Ashley’s night—forever.

The Characters

Social butterfly and owner of the Mountain Goat Coffee Company, 50-year-old Melanie Lyons always seems to know the latest town gossip. Her coffee shop is located next door to the Happy Tails Veterinary Clinic and she befriends Ashley immediately, always eager to discuss her small herd of goats and two pet Barnevelder chickens, Butch and Cassidy.

With a degree in acting and a penchant for drama, Melanie sings in the church choir and often volunteers to be in the town’s Old West reenactments and other festivals. But Ashley detects another kind of acting going on . . . Melanie lives next door to the horse farm where the trainer Bruce Peterson was found dead in a stall, and she seems to know more about it than she’s telling.

A member of one of the town’s oldest families, Bruce was a kind man, dedicated to his job, and one who genuinely cared about the well-being of the horses he worked with. He was loved by all—or so it seemed. But when Ashley discovers evidence that his death was no accident, a cloud of suspicion settles over the town of Aspen Falls. Who would want the talented horse trainer dead? As it turns out, Bruce had a few secrets of his own. Ashley must unleash the truth and catch a thoroughbred killer before the culprit sets his sights on her.

38-year-old Cole Hawke is a U.S. Park Ranger in the White River National Forest. His friends would describe him as good-natured, dependable, and smart, and some would even say he’s one of Aspen Falls most eligible bachelors. An avid cross-country skier and mountain biker, he loves the great outdoors and spends as much time in it as possible, both on the job and off. He’s a member of the In CaHOOTS Bird Watchers club, and he often takes the unofficial lead on the hikes.

Cole is open to a serious romance but he hasn’t found the right woman—until Ashley moves to town. She has a beautiful smile and a spark he can’t resist, but he worries about her getting mixed up in the murder of local trainer, Bruce Peterson.

38-year-old veterinarian Dr. Ashley Hart is always up for a challenge. Smart, bighearted, and driven, she jumps at the chance to open her own practice in Aspen Falls. She’s thrilled that the residents have chosen her to be their veterinarian, and she looks forward to the adventures she and her Dalmatian, Max, will have in their new home. What she doesn’t expect, however, is the menagerie of mysteries that await them in the charming mountain town.

Independent and spunky, 32-year-old Holly Kipp grew up in Gilmore Creek, Colorado, a sleepy town located about an hour away from Aspen Falls. She’s always loved animals and decided to marry her passion for pets with her desire to open her own pet grooming business. 3 Alarm Fur is a full-service pet salon located in the town’s old firehouse, across the hall from Ashley’s clinic, and Holly and Ashley hit it off immediately. Holly enjoys a good conspiracy theory and is always ready to lend a sleuthing hand. She is also a member of the Bookaru Book Club and she never misses a meeting if they’re reading a mystery novel.