Rest You Merry - Charlotte MacLeod - ebook
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On Christmas Day, a University scrooge finds a murdered librarian. Each December, the faculty of Balaclava Agricultural College goes wild with Christmas lights. The entire campus glitters with holiday decorations, save for one dark spot: the home of professor Peter Shandy. But after years of resisting the Illumination festival, Shandy snaps, installing a million-watt display of flashing lights and blaring music perfectly calculated to drive his neighbors mad. The horticulturalist flees town, planning to spend Christmas on a tramp steamer, but soon feels guilty about his prank and returns home to find his Christmas lights extinguished, and a dead librarian in his living room. Wishing to avoid a scandal, the school's head asks Shandy to investigate the matter quietly. After all, Christmas is big business, and the town needs the cash infusion provided by the Illumination. As Peter Shandy will soon find, though, there is a dark side to even the whitest of white Christmases. Review Quotes. "Charm, wit, and Holmesian logic." - Audiofile. "MacLeod can be counted on for a witty, literate and charming mystery." - Publishers Weekly. "The epitome of the 'cozy' mystery." - Mostly Murder. Biographical note. Charlotte MacLeod (1922-2005) was an internationally bestselling author of cozy mysteries. Born in Canada, she moved to Boston as a child, and lived in New England most of her life. After graduating from college, she made a career in advertising, writing copy for the Stop & Shop Supermarket Company before moving on to Boston firm N. H. Miller & Co., where she rose to the rank of vice president. In her spare time, MacLeod wrote short stories, and in 1964 published her first novel, a children's book called Mystery of the White Knight. In Rest You Merry (1978), MacLeod introduced Professor Peter Shandy, a horticulturist and amateur sleuth whose adventures she would chronicle for two decades. The Family Vault (1979) marked the first appearance of her other best-known characters: the husband and wife sleuthing team Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn, whom she followed until her last novel, The Balloon Man, in 1998.

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Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

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Cover

Begin Reading

About the Book

On Christmas Day, a University scrooge finds a murdered librarian.

Each December, the faculty of Balaclava Agricultural College goes wild with Christmas lights. The entire campus glitters with holiday decorations, save for one dark spot: the home of professor Peter Shandy. But after years of resisting the Illumination festival, Shandy snaps, installing a million-watt display of flashing lights and blaring music perfectly calculated to drive his neighbors mad. The horticulturalist flees town, planning to spend Christmas on a tramp steamer, but soon feels guilty about his prank and returns home to find his Christmas lights extinguished, and a dead librarian in his living room.

Wishing to avoid a scandal, the school’s head asks Shandy to investigate the matter quietly. After all, Christmas is big business, and the town needs the cash infusion provided by the Illumination. As Peter Shandy will soon find, though, there is a dark side to even the whitest of white Christmases.

About the Author

Charlotte MacLeod (1922–2005) was an internationally bestselling author of cozy mysteries. Born in Canada, she moved to Boston as a child, and lived in New England most of her life. After graduating from college, she made a career in advertising, writing copy for the Stop & Shop Supermarket Company before moving on to Boston firm N. H. Miller & Co., where she rose to the rank of vice president. In her spare time, MacLeod wrote short stories, and in 1964 published her first novel, a children’s book called Mystery of the White Knight. In Rest You Merry (1978), MacLeod introduced Professor Peter Shandy, a horticulturist and amateur sleuth whose adventures she would chronicle for two decades. The Family Vault (1979) marked the first appearance of her other best-known characters: the husband and wife sleuthing team Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn, whom she followed until her last novel, The Balloon Man, in 1998.

Rest You Merry

A Peter Shandy Mystery

Charlotte MacLeod

 

BASTEI ENTERTAINMENT

 

Bastei Entertainment is an imprint of Bastei Lübbe AG

 

Copyright © 2015 by Bastei Lübbe AG, Schanzenstraße 6-20, 51063 Cologne, Germany

 

For the original edition:

Copyright © 2012 by The Mysterious Press, LLC, 58 Warren Street, New York, NY. U.S.A.

 

Copyright © 1978 by Charlotte MacLeod

 

Project management: Lori Herber

Cover adaptation: Christin Wilhelm, www.grafic4u.de

Cover design by Mauricio Díaz

 

E-book production: Jouve Germany GmbH & Co. KG

 

ISBN 978-3-95859-388-6

 

www.bastei-entertainment.com

 

All rights reserved, including without limitation the right to reproduce this e-book or any portion thereof in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the publisher.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

For Helen and Glenn

Chapter 1

“PETER SHANDY, YOU’RE IMPOSSIBLE,” sputtered his best friend’s wife. “How do you expect me to run the Illumination if everyone doesn’t cooperate?”

“I’m sure you’ll do a masterful job as always, Jemima. Isn’t that Hannah Cadwall across the way ringing your doorbell?”

With a finesse born of much practice, Professor Shandy backed Mrs. Ames off his front step and shut the door. This was the seventy-third time in eighteen years she’d nagged him about decorating his house. He’d kept count. Shandy had a passion for counting. He would have counted the spots on an attacking leopard, and he was beginning to think a leopard might be a welcome change.

Every yuletide season since he’d come to teach at Balaclava Agricultural College, he’d been besieged by Jemima and her cohorts. Their plaint was ever the same:

“We have a tradition to maintain.”

The tradition dated back, as Professor Shandy had taken the trouble to find out, no farther than 1931, when the wife of the then president had found a box of Japanese lanterns left over from some alumni ball of more prosperous days. Combining artistic yearnings with Yankee thrift, she decided to stage a Grand Illumination of the Balaclava Crescent on Christmas Eve. The professor had come to feel a deep sense of personal injury because it hadn’t rained that night.

The Grand Illumination, blotting out for one night the drabness of the Great Depression, had been such a smashing success that the college had repeated the event every year since, with accumulating embellishments. Now during the entire holiday season the Crescent became a welter of twinkling lights, red sleighs, and students in quaint costume chanting totally superfluous injunctions to Deck the Halls. Those faculty members whose houses faced the Crescent threw themselves into the jollification. No energy shortage dimmed the multicolored blaze because the college generated its own power from methane gas.

From near and far came tourists to bask in the spectacle and be milked by the lads and lasses of Balaclava. Students sold doughnuts and mulled cider from whimsical plywood gingerbread houses, hawked song sheets, ran parking lots, or put on the guise of Santa’s elves and hauled people around on old-fashioned sleds at a dollar a haul. Pictures appeared in national magazines.

However, the photographers always had to shoot around one dark spot on the gala scene. This was the home of Peter Shandy. He alone, like a balding King Canute, stood steadfast against the tide.

In the daytime his stubborn refusal to assist at the Annual Fleecing didn’t matter so much. The small house of rosy old brick, framed by snow-covered evergreens, looked Christmasy just as it was. Still, it was this very picturesqueness that galled the committee most.

“You could do so much with it,” they moaned.

One after another, they showered on him wreaths made of gilded pine cones, of stapled computer cards, of stuffed patchwork, of plastic fruit, of lollipops wired to bent coat hangers with little scissors attached so he could snip off goodies as desired. He always thanked the donors with what courtesy he could manage, and passed on their offerings to his cleaning woman. By now, Mrs. Lomax had the most bedizened place in town, but the small brick house on the Crescent remained stubbornly unadorned.

Left to himself, Peter Shandy would willingly have made some concession to the event: a balsam wreath or a spray of holly on the front door, and a fat white candle guttering in the parlor window after dark. He rather liked Christmas. Every year, he sent off a few decently restrained cards to old friends, attended those neighborhood parties he couldn’t in decency avoid, and went off to visit relatives.

Cousin Henry and his wife, Elizabeth, were quiet people, older than Peter, who lived a three hours’ journey by Greyhound from Balaclava Junction. They would thank him for the box of cigars and the basket of assorted jellies, then sit him down to an early dinner of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Afterward, over brandy and the Christmas cigars, Henry would show his stamp collection. The professor had little interest in stamps as such, but found them pleasant enough things to count. Late in the afternoon, Elizabeth would serve tea and her special lemon cheese tarts and remark that Peter had a long ride ahead of him.

Agreeably stuffed and warm with familial attachment, the professor would slip back into the brick house somewhere around nine o’clock in the evening and settle down with a glass of good sherry and Bracebridge Hall. At bedtime he would step out the back door for a last whiff of fresh air. If it was a fine night, he might feel the urge to stay outside and count stars for a while, but for the past couple of years the Illumination Committee had scheduled fireworks, which wrought havoc with his tallies.

Altogether, too many of Shandy’s Christmases had been blighted by the overwhelming holiday spirit around the Crescent. On this morning of December 21, as he stood automatically counting the petals on the bunch of giant poinsettias snipped out of plastic detergent jugs which Jemima had just forced upon him, something snapped. He thrust the loathsome artifact at Mrs. Lomax, grabbed his coat, and caught the bus for Boston.

On the morning of December 22 two men drove up to the brick house in a large truck. The professor met them at the door.

“Did you bring everything, gentlemen?”

“The whole works. Boy, you folks up here sure take Christmas to heart!”

“We have a tradition to maintain,” said Shandy. “You may as well start on the spruce trees.”

All morning the workmen toiled. Expressions of amazed delight appeared on the faces of neighbors and students. As the day wore on and the men kept at it, the amazement remained but the delight faded.

It was dark before the men got through. Peter Shandy walked them out to the truck. He was wearing his overcoat, hat, and galoshes, and carrying a valise.

“Everything in good order, gentlemen? Lights timed to flash on and off at six-second intervals? Amplifiers turned up to full volume? Steel-cased switch boxes provided with sturdy locks? Very well, then, let’s flip on the power and be off. I’m going to impose on you for a lift to Boston, if I may. I have an urgent appointment there.”

“Sure, glad to have you,” they chorused, feeling the agreeable crinkle of crisp bills in their hands. From a technical point of view, it had been an interesting day.

Precisely forty-eight hours later, on Christmas Eve, Professor Shandy stepped outside for a breath of air. Around him rolled the vast Atlantic. Above shone only the freighter’s riding lights and a skyful of stars. The captain’s dinner had been most enjoyable. Presently he would go below for a chat with the chief engineer, a knowledgeable man who could tell to the last pulse how many revolutions per minute his engines made at any given speed.

Back on Balaclava Crescent, floodlights would be illuminating the eight life-size reindeer mounted on the roof of the brick house. In its windows, sixteen Santa Claus faces would be leering above sixteen sets of artificial candles, each containing three red and two purple bulbs, each window outlined by a border of thirty-six more bulbs alternating in green, orange, and blue.

He glanced at his watch and did rapid calculations in his head. At that precise point, the 742 outsize red bulbs on the spruce trees would have flashed on for the 28,800th time—a total of 21,369,600 flashes. The amplifiers must by now have blared out 2,536 renditions each of “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” and “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.” They must be just now on the seventeenth bar of the 2,537th playing of “I Don’t Care Who You Are, Fatty, Get Those Reindeer off My Roof.”

Professor Shandy smiled into the darkness. “Bah, humbug,” he murmured, and began to count the stars.

Chapter 2

THE ENORMITY OF WHAT he had done did not hit Peter Shandy until he was halfway through breakfast on Christmas morning. Then his right hand froze in the very act of conveying a forkful of excellent pork sausage to his expectant mouth.

“What’s wrong, Mr. Shandy?” asked the sympathetic purser. “Not getting seasick on us, are you?”

“It’s the engines. They’ve stopped.”

Though this was not the real cause of Shandy’s perturbation, it happened to be true. For no apparent reason, the ship’s great pulse had suddenly ceased to beat. The engineer threw down his napkin, made a blasphemous utterance, and leaped for the companionway. The captain rushed to the bridge, followed in order of rank by his first, second, and third mates. The steward cleared his throat deferentially.

“Well, Purser, it looks as if you and Mr. Shandy will have to finish the sausages.”

“Please present my share to the ship’s cat with the compliments of the season,” replied the professor. “I believe I’ll go try on my life jacket.”

He was not particularly alarmed. Compared to what might be in store for him back at Balaclava Junction, the prospect of sudden death by drowning was not without some attraction. Also, there seemed no immediate danger, especially since they had been traveling southward along the coast. A sea anchor was thrown out to keep them riding comfortably until seagoing tugs could arrive to tow them to port. A helicopter flew overhead taking pictures for television. Shandy stayed out of camera range and meditated on his infamy.

An honorable man withal, he could see only one course of action, and he took it. When they put in at Newport News to dry-dock, he repacked his bag, bade farewell to his new-found comrades, and caught the next Greyhound to Balaclava Junction.

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!