Juliet B. Madison’s most recent literary offering is “A Winter Murderland” where she shares more stories about Detective Inspector Frank Lyle. This collection contains two novellas — “A Murder Free Christmas” and “Prescription For Murder” — as well as other short stories, making for a four-hundred plus page book. In other words, readers are buying a book that is far more than just a breezy weekend read.
“A Murder Free Christmas” begins by introducing readers to DI Lyle’s extended and immediate family with important details laying the way for what’s to come in the story. Readers feel as if they are part of the different Christmas celebrations, watching presents being unwrapped, waiting to see what’s underneath all the paper and bows. The complications and rewards of family life at various stages is examined, from pregnant wives and doting husbands to empty nest parents with friends and family — single and coupled — being part of the first novella.
The second part of this story takes place on Boxing Day and delves into Thomas Fox’s past. In the previous story, we know that Thomas is involved with one of Frank Lyle’s now-grown adult children. This story not only tells the story of two people in love, but fills in a few gaps in what readers already know about DI Frank Lyle — a man respected by his colleagues and known to be at the top of his game in the police force. The story centers around a controversial topic that affects men and women alike, while exploring what love is and is not.
“Wishing On A Star” is the second story in this collection, and takes place nearly fifteen years before the first story. DI Lyle’s wife has moved on from the relationship with her former husband, taking her sons with her — her youngest child being her six-year-old son with Frank. This story takes on the heartbreaking realities of broken families and the effects on the children who live through their parents’ separations and divorces.
The collection ramps up with “Prescription For Murder” which Juliet B. Madison wrote during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2014. This story opens with a corpse, an empty medication bottle found at the scene in the name of someone else, and the officers involved in the investigation balancing their personal lives with their professional lives.
Dialing back a few years, the story “The Dare” takes place when DI Lyle’s son James is still a teen, and gives nod to the paranormal while taking a step away from the murder mystery genre. It makes for an interesting departure from the first three stories while at the same time still hooking in to the first three stories.
For readers who are expecting typical murder mystery stories that rely on motive, opportunity, and means, these stories will be light on that as the author focuses more on what makes her characters the people they are, and looks at how they got there. There are also elements of erotica which may or may not appeal to readers.
For those of you who like to know as much about the characters as you do about the cases in which they are involved, this book will provide you with character background that fleshes out what motivates each character. For those of you who like your murders to be fact-based, you won’t be disappointed either as the author has made sure those loose ends are nicely tied up for readers.
As a side note, two pieces of artwork by Caroline Lee have been included by the author with this collection, used with the permission of the artist. Additionally, Juliet B. Madison’s sixth novel in the DI Frank Lyle Mystery Series — “Dead On Arrival” — will be available for purchase some time in late Spring 2015.