Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: ebook
Genres: cozy fantasy, cozy mystery, holiday fiction
Series: Shady Hollow #3.5
Published by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard on November 30, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
It’s the winter solstice in Shady Hollow, that magical time of year when creatures of all shapes and sizes come together to honor the season and eat as much pie as possible. Reporter Vera Vixen is eager to experience her first holiday in town and is especially looking forward to the unveiling of the solstice tree. But then disaster strikes. The year’s tree—the tallest in the forest—has disappeared without a trace. Can Vera, her best friend, Lenore, and Deputy Orville Braun find the tree and save the season? Or will this year’s solstice be especially dark?
Today is Black Friday in the U.S., that unofficial holiday after the official Thanksgiving Day holiday.
Traditionally, this was the day when holiday decorating ‘officially’ kicked off, and anyplace that had not already started playing Xmas carols started doing so with a vengeance. So, as this feels like the right day, at least to me, to start reviewing holiday books, I’m kicking off my holiday season with this Shady Hollow winter solstice story.
This is explicitly not a Christmas story, just as Phantom Pond was not explicitly a Halloween story. The historical and religious underpinnings of both of those holidays in our world don’t exist in the animal-centric world of Shady Hollow.
But that doesn’t mean that something like those holidays wouldn’t, doesn’t or hasn’t arisen in other cultures – and that particularly applies to the winter solstice. Many, many traditions have holidays around the solstice, and Shady Hollow wouldn’t be exceptional in marking the shortest day of the year – even if they might be a bit exceptional in just how they do that marking.
Along with the touch of mystery that makes the series so very much fun!
The tradition in Shady Hollow is to ‘walk’ the specially chosen Solstice tree from the surrounding woods to the center of town, where it will be decorated and feted and brightly lit to chase away the darkness of the longest night.
The trees are chosen decades in advance and tended lovingly by specially appointed treekeepers until their appointed day as the center of the whole town’s attention and celebration.
But someone has stolen this year’s tree – all FIFTY FEET of it – the night before its celebratory walk. The whole town is enraged, incensed, and practically in mourning over the loss of their tree.
It will take the efforts of every animal in town, from Police Bear Orville Braun to ace investigative reporter Vera Vixen to all the birds around town, led by night-owl Professor Heidegger and bookstore owner Lenore the Raven to find the tree in time.
The longest night comes early in Shady Hollow, and time is running out.
Escape Rating B: Shady Hollow may sound a bit twee, but it’s really a LOT more like Zootopia – at least if the movie had been set in Judy Hopp’s rural Bunnyburrow instead of Nick Wilde’s big city. A reflection that reporter Vera Vixen frequently makes herself, as she used to be a resident of one of those big cities but has found cozy Shady Hollow to be a lot more to her taste.
The Shady Hollow series as a whole, are lovely, charming, and very cozy mysteries – and Evergreen Chase is no exception. At the same time, the use of animals as people gives the author all sorts of opportunities to include comments about human behavior hiding in plain sight – or under the bare covering of a pawkerchief.
Like many of the stories in this series, there’s a mystery, but it’s a gentle one. No one is dead, no one is likely to end up dead, but the town’s collective anguish is still VERY real, as someone has literally stolen one of their beloved traditions right out from under them.
That the town pulls together to celebrate the solstice with or without the tree is all part of the series’ charm. That they have their own solstice miracle just adds to the sweetness of both the story and the holiday season – both theirs and ours.
So this feels like its a short story for the many fans of the series, of which I am mostly definitely one. And it turned out to be the perfect start for my holiday reading. (As much as I enjoyed The Wishing Bridge reading it last week made me want to give myself a ‘ten-yard penalty for rushing the season.’ Reading Evergreen Chase felt like a ‘proper’ start to the season.)
It did also remind me of another lovely holiday story that uses animals to tell an entirely different but equally charming human story. If Shady Hollow sounds charming but you’ve never watched Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, well, let this be the season to get the song, “There Ain’t No Hole in the Washtub” stuck in your head, just like it is in mine this time of year!
~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~
Black Friday is just a weird day. It’s not a holiday, but it still feels like part of a holiday. Unless one works in retail, because it’s most definitely, absolutely not a holiday under those conditions! Also weird, but along the U.S./Canadian border, even though there is no Thanksgiving Thursday in Canada (Canadian Thanksgiving is in mid-October), there is mostly definitely a Black Friday complete with Black Friday sales.
But it’s a day when not many people may be reading blogs – possibly because in the U.S. they are either still in a turkey coma or because they’re off trying to grab the best Black Friday deals. So, for those who are staying home, I have a bit of a giveaway for you.
It’ll just be a little something to put in someone’s holiday stocking, but it’s just a way to say ‘THANKS!’ to all of you who have spent a bit of time with me over the year at chez Reading Reality.