Peter Shandy's had it with the Illumination, a grand scale holiday celebration. Jemima Ames, his best friend's wife, keeps harping on him to join in and decorate. After eighteen years, he decides to give her what she wants and makes a garish Christmas display of his house, complete with life-sized reindeer on the roof and Christmas carols blaring from the speakers. The moment this abomination is completed, Shandy skips town on the Singapore Suzie, only the ship stalls and Shandy feels a pang of guilt and heads back home only to find Jemima waiting in his house for him, dead. Everyone seems to think it was an accident because Jemima had been disgusted with the display and wanted to take matters into her own hands. Everyone comes to this conclusion, except for Shandy and Tim Ames (Jemima's husband). Tim gets in touch with his daughter, Jemmy, to tell her the bad news. She's pregnant and about to deliver any day so he decides to go to California to be with her and they'll send Helen Marsh to look after the house in the mean time. Once Shandy meets Helen, he realizes what he's been missing all these years. To make matters better, she counts things (like he does), seems to be able to understand him and isn't throwing herself at him like the other women are doing lately (however, she doesn't seem to like it when the other women do it). Helen shares the same idea that Jemima didn't have an accident and together they unravel the mystery, knocking down the house of cards and building a new house of cards.
I think I'll like this series. The characters are odd without being overly quirky and I'm positive I've met some of these characters in my life -- worse yet, some of them might be my relatives. Shandy seems like a very easy going guy, albeit boring, who reaches his breaking point. For some reason, I got visions of Skipping Christmas dancing in my head (though I think this came out sooner, hmm...) Yet, Shandy's pretty sharp surrounded by people not so sharp, thus making him reluctantly assume the leadership role. I think he learns a lot from this murder and meeting Helen. I like to see the romance element, not a bunch of sex, but a relationship building based on compatibility and understanding along with mutual attraction. See? It can be done!