Friday, December 27, 2019

White Elephant by Trish Harnetiaux

Reviewed by Christy

            Claudine and Henry Calhoun’s opulent, once lucrative real estate agency is coasting on fumes. Henry, the architect, is burnt out and indifferent. In fact, he’s half hoping for the firm’s collapse so he and his wife can leave Aspen, Colorado and start all over. Claudine, the dogged real estate agent, refuses to give up. When pop star Zara expresses interest in a lavish Aspen mansion, Claudine jumps at the chance to make the big sale that will save her and her husband’s business. The mansion in question also happens to be the first house Henry ever designed and built, and Claudine promised him he would never, ever have to set foot in it again.
            Breaking her promise, Claudine decides to hold their annual office Christmas party in the mansion and invites Zara herself so she can witness its potential. Never mind that most of the sales agents dread the holiday party and the inevitable White Elephant gift exchange – where everyone competes to bring the most impressive gift. However, a strange gift – an old cowboy statue – appears in the middle of the game. No one will claim it, and it confuses the guests. Except for Claudine and Henry. Though they don’t know the sender, they know the gift. The statue ties them to the scene of a crime – a crime committed in the same mansion where they’re celebrating. Someone at the party knows what they did.
            While this book is marketed as an isolated “whodunnit” in the vein of Clue or Agatha Christie, more than half of the book is initial set up. I was excited about the snowy setting and the potential of everyone being trapped but once the gift is revealed the rest of the novel quickly putters out. The blizzard that threatens throughout does nothing but mildly inconvenience everyone as they’re arriving. I wouldn’t say I hated it because it’s an easy read but it’s also kind of forgettable. One of the twists is so obvious I thought for sure it was a red herring but unfortunately, it was not. To be honest, with its under developed characters and quick resolution, it somewhat reminded me of an adult version of RL Stine’s Fear Street series. I don’t necessarily consider that a bad thing (I still love and read those books even today) but it’s not what I look for when I pick up an adult mystery. With an abundance of Christmas mysteries to choose from, it’s hard to recommend this one because it just doesn’t stand out.

** I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. **

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