By Lisa Unger
A CAPTIVATING AND CHILLING RECKONING INTO A CRIME OF THE PAST
Someone has been leaving Christmas presents on Madeline Martin's doorstep for years. Madeline is the only surviving victim of a heinous crime in her teens. She now owns a thriving independent bookstore. But who could be leaving the gifts? She is afraid it's someone from her past, so she tells no one.
Five days before Christmas, Harley Granger, a true crime podcaster, stops by her shop in Little Valley to talk about the most horrific day of Madeline’s life. Madeline is not interested in dredging up thoughts of Evan Handy, who attacked her and killed one of her best friends. Two other of Madeline’s best friends, Ainsley and Sam Wallace, also went missing that night and have never been found.
Evan is serving time in prison, but some in the community believe he may not be guilty of the disappearance of Ainsley and Sam. Since Handy was imprisoned, three other young women have gone missing in the area. The most recent girl is a college dropout, missing only a few days. Is there a connection to the other missing girls? Is Handy innocent, after all?
Because of Harley Granger’s persistence in focusing on Handy’s crime, Madeline and Badger, a childhood best friend and classic car restorer, grapple with the unwanted and unwelcome memories of their past and the lies and secrets never shared.
What reader can resist a mystery about a bookstore owner who survives a tragedy in her teens and a true crime podcaster looking for a story? CHRISTMAS PRESENTS is a captivating and chilling reckoning into a crime of the past. The novella is atmospheric and adroitly written. Madeline’s character is nicely developed, and you will feel sympathy for the horror of her past.
Thanks to Netgalley and Penzler for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review; all opinions are my own
Publisher Penzler Publishers/Mysterious Press
Published Oct. 24, 2023