Three French Hens and a Murder (A Cozy Mystery)


A Charlie Kingsley Cozy Novella. Part of the award-winning series from a USA Today Bestselling Author.

Three French hens, two elves, and one Santa Claus make for merry mayhem for Charlie Kingsley and the gang.

When Charlie and Pat see an injured Santa on the side of the road in the middle of a snowstorm, of course they had to stop and take him to the hospital.

They assumed that would be the end of their good Samaritan duties, until a dead elf is discovered in the same area where they picked up Santa … and Santa has no memory of what happened.

With Santa being the number one suspect, Charlie and Pat race to discover what really happened and keep Christmas from being cancelled.

Meet Charlie. Better known as “Aunt Charlie” from the award-winning Secrets of Redemption series. She’s back, making teas and solving cases in this funny, twisty, cozy mystery series set in the 1990s in Redemption, Wisconsin.

Bonus: Autographed and book swag is included with all paperbacks and hardbacks plus free shipping with orders over $40!

Description, reviews, samples, and details about what you receive are found below.

When Charlie and Pat see an injured Santa on the side of the road in the middle of a snowstorm, of course they had to stop and take him to the hospital.

They assume that will be the end of their good Samaritan duties, until a dead elf is discovered in the same area where they picked up Santa … and Santa has no memory of what happened.

With Santa being the number one suspect, Charlie and Pat race to discover what really happened and keep Christmas from being cancelled.

Part of the award-winning Charlie Kingsley Mystery series

2023 PRG Reviewers’ Choice First Place Winner for Murder Among Friends

2023 PRG Reviewers’ Choice First Place Winner for Book Series

2022 PRG Reviewers’ Choice Award First Place Winner for Best Book for Murder Next Door

2022 PRG Reviewers’ Choice First Place Winner for Book Series

Read the First Chapter

Chapter 1

“Watch out!” Pat yelled as I swerved to miss the oncoming car that had drifted across the center line. Although to be fair, with all the snow, it was difficult to see the center line. The car skidded, and for a heart-dropping moment, I was sure I was about to lose control and go careening off into a snowbank on the side of the road. But then I felt the tires regain their grip and the car was under my control again.

“Stay in your lane,” Pat yelled as we passed that other car, although it was doubtful the driver heard her with our windows up. Tiki, Pat’s miniature poodle, yelped as well. She was dressed in a festive green sweater with a sparkling Christmas tree on the front and matching green ribbons. She looked up at me with her black eyes and gave me a quick tail wag. Unlike Pat, who was bracing herself against the dashboard, Tiki appeared to be enjoying the excitement.

“You think if you lived in Wisconsin, you would know how to drive in the snow,” Pat said.

“Well, it is the first real snow of the season,” I said.

“That’s no excuse,” Pat said. “It’s like riding a bike. You don’t forget.” She glared as another car fishtailed as it turned onto a side street. “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all.”

I refrained from pointing out it was her idea, and if it had been up to me, we would still be in my nice warm kitchen, eating cookies and drinking tea.

We had spent the morning at Redemption’s senior center, helping put up Christmas decorations. The original plan, which Pat was also using as a bribe to get me to come with her, was after we finished decorating, we would treat ourselves to lunch at Aunt May’s, and then I would finish dropping off my tea deliveries while Pat and Tiki kept me company. I had a small custom tea business I ran out of my house, growing herbs and flowers in my backyard for my teas, and a couple of times a week I would run around Redemption making deliveries. Just as long as the weather cooperated, that is.

Which it absolutely wasn’t today. The snow had started innocently enough as we hung tinsel and garland in the main activity hall, just a few flakes floating down from the sky. I hadn’t thought it would be that big of a deal, but then, the next time I glanced out the window, it was looking more serious. The snow was falling in thick sheets and had begun to accumulate. By the time Pat and I hiked our way out to the car, it was starting to resemble a blizzard.

“At least we finished up the senior center,” I said, peering out the windshield as the wipers furiously pushed the snow out of the way. “That’s one less thing to worry about.”

“I suppose that’s true,” Pat said, frowning at the snow. Pat was one of my first tea customers and had also become one of my best friends. She was a good decade or so older than me, and the best way to describe her was round. She was plump with a round face, round black-rimmed glasses and short, no-nonsense brown hair that was turning gray. “And it’s not like we would have known sooner. The weather forecast was supposed to be sunny and clear, maybe a few snow showers late this afternoon. Absolutely nothing like this.”

As if to emphasize that the weatherman was a liar, the snow seemed to fall even harder. I gently tapped the brake, even though I was already driving so slow I was practically crawling. “It is weird. But it is Redemption.”

“Redemption has plenty of strange things, but the weather tends to not be one of them,” Pat said.

Redemption, Wisconsin, had a long reputation of peculiar and unexplained events that had happened over the years, starting in 1888 when all the adults disappeared one day, leaving only the children. No one knew what happened to the adults. The children all claimed when they went to bed, the adults were there, and when they woke up in the morning, they were gone.

The adults may have been the first to have gone missing, but they weren’t the last. Over the years, Redemption had far more disappearances than what would be considered normal for a town its size, along with plenty of other odd occurrences such as ghosts, hauntings, and murder.

Suddenly, Pat sat up and pointed “Hey, is that … Santa over there?”

I glanced toward the side of the road. There was a man there, dressed in what looked like a red Santa outfit complete with a hat, although it was hard to tell with all the snowflakes whipping around him.

“It sure looks like it,” I said. “Although I wonder what he’s doing on the side of the road. He’s not anywhere near the mall.”

“He also doesn’t look very good,” Pat said.

Pat was right. Santa seemed to be tottering confusedly in a circle, like he wasn’t sure which way he was supposed to go.

“Do you think he’s lost?” I asked.

Pat snorted “Who wouldn’t be lost in this snowstorm?”

“He’s not wearing a coat,” I said. “Maybe we should see if he needs a ride.”

As soon as the words left my mouth, Santa paused in midstep and then collapsed, falling backward into a snowdrift, his legs and arms stretched out like a starfish.

“Ack!” Pat said. “Maybe he really IS hurt.”

“Or he’s having a heart attack or a stroke,” I said, turning on my signal and easing over to the side of the road, practically driving into a snowdrift myself in order to get over far enough. The car behind me let out a loud beep.

“Are you kidding me?” Pat fumed, glaring at the driver behind us. “It’s Santa! Where is their Christmas spirit?”

“They’re definitely going to be on the naughty list,” I said, carefully getting out of the car and praying neither I, my car, nor Pat got hit.

The wind had picked up, swirling around us and nearly tearing the car door out of my hands before I could close it. My skin prickled as the tiny ice crystals pelted it. I bent over, shielding my face against the worst of the wind, and slipped and slid over to the man.

“Are you okay?” I asked. He had managed to sit up and was leaning on the snowdrift behind him, a befuddled expression on his face. Now that I was closer, I could see he took being a Santa very seriously. His long white beard and bushy white eyebrows looked natural. I wondered if he dyed them white. His red hat had fallen askew across his forehead, almost covering one of his eyes. His glasses were perched crookedly on his nose, which was unusually red and puffy.

He blinked confusedly at me. “What happened?”

“You fell in a snowbank,” I said, bending down to try and examine him, although it was difficult to do with the snow coming down so hard. “Do you think you can stand up?”

He looked around, as if just realizing where he was. “I’m not sure. Have you seen my French hens?”

“French hens?” I asked, wondering if I heard him right. The wind was whistling loudly by my ears, not to mention Pat was muttering curses under her breath as she shuffled her way toward us.

He squinted as he looked around. “They were just here.”

I looked around as well but didn’t see anything but snow and more snow. “Pat, did you see any French hens?”

Pat looked at me like I had lost my mind. “Did you say French hens? Like birds?” She flapped her arms as if they were wings.

“They’re always wandering away,” Santa sighed.

I shot Pat a concerned look. Either we were going to have to start searching for a couple of frozen birds, or Santa had a head injury. Taking a closer look at him, I did see what looked like dried blood on the white fur trim on both his hat and his coat, but no obvious cuts.

“We better get him to a hospital,” I said to Pat. “Think you can lift him?”

She shot me a look, at least I think she did, the snow made it difficult to see, as she skidded over to Santa’s other side. “I can try.”

“Oh, you two girls shouldn’t be doing this,” he protested as we each took an arm. “That’s a job for my elves.”

Elves? He must be joking. Or he hit his head so hard he really thought he was Santa Claus. “We’ve got this,” I said as we started hauling him to his feet. “We’re stronger than we look.”

“Speak for yourself,” Pat huffed.

After a lot of pulling and pushing, and almost falling not once, but twice, we finally got Santa up. “Can you walk?” I asked him.

He blinked again and adjusted his glasses. “Walk? Where do I need to walk to?”

“My car,” I pointed toward it, wincing as I noticed the amount of snow and slush around it. I hoped I wasn’t stuck.

He stared bewilderedly at my car. “Your car? Why are we doing that? Where’s my sleigh?”

“Your sleigh?” This had to be a joke. “What kind of sleigh?”

He waved his hands. “You know. The kind you ride in. Oh drat, where did those elves go? They would know where the sleigh is.”

“Maybe they’re with the French hens,” Pat said drily.

He swiveled his head around to face her. “Oh, you’re right. That’s probably exactly where they are.” He shook his head. “I’m going to have to have a conversation with them. They shouldn’t be taking the sleigh out without me.”

“Good idea,” I said, as we half led, half dragged him toward the car. “But for now, let’s get you in the car.”

“I don’t think you’re going to be able to find my sleigh in a car,” he said doubtfully, although he appeared to be coming along mostly willingly. “My sleigh is … special. It can go places a car can’t.”

“Well, as I don’t have a sleigh, we’ll have to make do with my car,” I said, as I fumbled for my keys. Tiki was standing up in the front seat, excitedly pawing at the side window. Santa paused when he saw her.

“Oh, look at the little sweetheart,” he said, bending closer to the window and wiggling his fingers. “Hello there. Have you been a good little girl?”

Tiki’s tail was waving furiously.

He chuckled, a deep, low noise that sounded suspiciously like he was saying ho, ho, ho. “I think that’s a yes.”

“Here we go,” I said, getting the back door open finally and practically pushing Santa into the back seat. Once he was safely tucked inside, Pat got into the front, and I went around to the driver’s seat. Tiki stood on her hind legs, trying to greet Santa, who chuckled again as he leaned forward to rub under her chin.

“By the way, I’m Charlie,” I said, putting the key in the ignition. “And this is Pat.”

“Yes, I know,” Santa said.

I eyed Pat who rolled her eyes. “And you are…”

“You know who I am,” Santa said. “We met once before, remember?”

“You mean at the shopping mall?” Pat asked.

“I don’t do shopping malls,” Santa said. “Do you think I have time for that? Other men, very fine men I might add, take care of that.”

“Then how did we meet if you’re not sitting in shopping malls?” Pat asked, before snapping her fingers. “Oh wait. I know. You played Santa a few years ago in that Christmas play, didn’t you?”

“That was yet another fine man, who is also quite a talented actor, but also not me,” Santa said.

“Then how did we meet?” Pat asked.

“I wasn’t talking about you, I was talking about Charlie,” Santa said.

“Me?” I whirled around in my seat to face him. “When did we meet? Was it back in New York?” I was mentally flipping through my memories trying to remember meeting a man who looked like Santa Claus. Was it at one of my parents’ parties?

Santa smiled kindly at me. “Oh no. Don’t you remember? You were very helpful.”

Helpful. That word triggered something, an almost memory, a tiny, fragile image that floated teasingly just out of reach.

I opened my mouth to ask another question, but then Pat shivered. “Can we at least turn the heater on? It’s freezing in here.”

“It’s not freezing in here at all,” Santa said, although I noticed his teeth were chattering, and his lips were turning a light shade of blue. “If you want to talk about freezing, let’s talk about the temperatures at the North Pole. Or traveling in a flying sleigh in winter in the middle of the night.”

“That would be cold,” I said as I turned the key to start the car. As much as I wanted to ask Santa more questions about exactly what he meant about meeting me, I knew it would need to wait. His eyes had started to glaze over again, and his skin was turning an unhealthy color. He didn’t need questions, he needed a hospital. I twisted the heat to full blast, even though the engine hadn’t quite warmed up enough.

“I agree, but that doesn’t mean we have to suffer in a cold car,” Pat said, rubbing her mittened hands together.

“I suppose that’s true,” Santa said, leaning over to peer out of the window as I began to pull into traffic, praying I wouldn’t slide into anything. “And who knows how long it will take to find my sleigh, so we might as well be comfortable.” He frowned, like he disapproved at the sight before him. “I’m sure the elves were just trying to help, but it’s vexing that my sleigh is nowhere to be found. I’m not even sure where to tell you to start looking.”

“That’s okay,” I said as I carefully pressed down the gas pedal and tried to calculate the fastest route. “We should first take you to the hospital and get you checked out.”

“The hospital?” His voice was puzzled. “Whatever for?”

“We need to make sure you’re not seriously hurt,” I said.

“That’s ridiculous.” He let out that chuckle again. “You can’t hurt Santa!”

“Well, we did find you in a snowbank in the middle of a snowstorm,” Pat said. “That’s not exactly normal behavior.”

“And you have blood on your clothes,” I added.

“Blood?” He peered at his outfit, adjusting his glasses. “Oh, look at that. I wonder where that came from?”

“That’s why we should get you checked out,” I said.

“I hope it’s not from the French hens,” he fretted. “I really wish I knew where they were.”

I flipped on my signal light and eased my way into a turn. “Do you remember what happened?”

He rubbed his head. “The last thing I remember was Dremel yelling to watch out.”


“One of the elves,” he explained. “He was the one driving. I think.” He rubbed his head, his eyes getting that glassy look again. “It’s all very fuzzy.”

Pat and I exchanged another worried look. “I didn’t see another car accident anywhere,” Pat said in a low voice. “Do you think he walked here from somewhere?”

“He couldn’t have walked that far,” I said, thinking about the heavy snowdrifts and how badly he had been stumbling.

“I’m fine,” Santa said again. “I told you; you can’t hurt Santa.”

I thought about asking how he explained the blood on his clothes but decided not to bother.

“So Dremel,” Pat said. “He’s one of your elves?”

“One of my best,” Santa said proudly. “He’s so dependable and trustworthy. I never worry if he’s involved. That’s why I’m hoping he’s the one taking care of the French hens. Otherwise, who knows what’s going to happen to them.”

“Is there also a partridge in a pear tree somewhere?” Pat asked.

“Of course not,” Santa said. “Do you have any idea how heavy a full-grown pear tree is?”

“I would suspect pretty heavy,” I said, as I turned into the parking lot of the hospital.

“Exactly,” Santa said.

The parking lot was packed, but we lucked out as someone pulled out near the entrance right as we drove up. As soon as I parked, I hurried out of the car to help Santa out.

“I still think this is silly,” he grumbled as I half pulled, half pushed him out of the back seat. “We have so many other things to do, we don’t need to be wasting time here.”

“Humor me,” I said, trying not to grunt from the effort.

Tiki was still jumping up and down on the front seat, trying to give Santa a kiss. He laughed and reached over to rub her chin. “You be good, Tiki. I’ll see you soon.”

Tiki danced around as Pat and I looked at each other in confusion. “Did we tell you her name was Tiki?” Pat asked.

Santa straightened up and winked at us. “You must have. How else would I have known it?”

Series Information

Meet Charlie. Better known as “Aunt Charlie” from the award-winning Secrets of Redemption series. She’s back, making teas and solving cases in this funny, twisty, whodunit cozy mystery series with a touch of romance set in the 1990s in Redemption, Wisconsin.

The books can be read as standalone books, but you may enjoy the series more by reading them in order. There is also a separate novella series below.

Main series:

The Murder Before Christmas

Ice Cold Murder

Murder Next Door

Murder Among Friends

The Murder of Sleepy Hollow

Red Hot Murder

A Cornucopia of Murder

Novella series:

A Grave Error

Loch Ness Murder

A Wedding to Murder For

Three French Hens and a Murder

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Three French Hens and a Murder

Three French Hens and a Murder

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