Not even the freak hurricane bearing down on Honolulu can dampen Wilson McKenna’s holiday spirit. His girlfriend is coming to town, and they’ll be celebrating their first Christmas together. Everything changes though when Chance Logan shows up and begs McKenna to help with a big charity event.
Chance wants his best friend to take the role of Santa in the Christmas play he’s directing. The previous Santa claims to have malaria, and dress rehearsal is only hours away. McKenna agrees to help, but trouble strikes during rehearsal when the storm hits town. There’s a city-wide power outage, the phone lines and traffic are snarled, and when the lights come on, one of the elves is dead.
When McKenna and Chance decide to investigate, the child star insists on being Santa’s helper. Now, McKenna has questions galore and no answers. Is the killer the Shakespeare-quoting Scrooge? The secretive Jack Frost? Or the way-too-friendly elf with more personalities than he can count? Should he give Assistant Elf Investigator Holly the promotion she’s demanding? And what should he do about the Santa suit? It’s giving him itches in places he can’t even mention in public.
This year, Hawaii’s best amateur sleuth has a short Christmas wish list. He wants to find a killer before the curtain comes down on this production. And, he’d kill for a sturdy backscratcher.
Review: The title, A Damsel for Santa, is a little misleading, at least until you get into the story. In this case, the damsel is a nine year old girl and a character in a play which McKenna gets roped into helping with. I have to say that Holly (the play’s character name) is absolutely adorable. I hate to use the word precocious but it does seem to fit. She’s intellectually mature and wise beyond her years. At nine years old my chief concern was getting the swimsuit back on Barbie.
McKenna himself is a mixture of holiday cheer and bah-humbugginess. The holiday cheer is reserved for the arrival of his girlfriend but when he gets roped into playing Santa in Chance Logan’s play, he almost turns into old Scrooge. But McKenna does have a way with kids and soon Holly is his chief confidante and murder invetigation assistant extraordinaire, filling him in on all things theater-related and telling him who’s been seen with whom.
Damsel is a pleasing novella in the McKenna series, with just the right touch of holiday murder madness. I’m hoping that Holly returns as a recurring character in further stories. While Ambrose has included children in past stories, there was something about Holly that was just right as an offset for McKenna.