It's days before Christmas and plenty is stirring in the Historical Society's competition show house as the decorators work quickly to make the deadline of the night of December 23 for judging and a December 24th opening to the public. But that's not all that has the designer's in an uproar. Clay Spottiswood has them all seeing red. He is sexually harassing the ladies, dripping paint everywhere, and possibly stealing other people's packages. Meg Langslow, who was roped into being the manager of this mess by her mother who agreed to drop the idea of using her home if she would, can't prove that Clay has been taking the packages, but she can't disprove it either. She just tells people to start having their stuff delivered to their place of business rather than to the design house and to call the police. The police, however, believe it to be vandals who had been messing with the house for the past six months before the Historical Society took over with their design house idea that would finally get the house sold after sitting there empty for six years. The possible final straw comes when he knocks down a wall in the master bath after being told he could not do it, causing water to rain down into the study below it.
Meg is tasked on the 20th of December with showing the house to a school reporter, Jessica while putting out fires along the way and making sure that Jessica knows to stay out of the designers' way as they are working. The other papers will be sending along reporters and photographers real soon themselves and nothing is ready yet. Meg's own mother is doing the living room. Ivy, a painter is painting scenes from fairy tales along the walls. Linda ("Our Lady of Chintz") is doing the dining room up, in you guessed it, chintz. Vermillion is doing one of the bedrooms up in goth. Eustace, a class act, is doing the kitchen. "Princess" Violet is doing one of the other bedrooms up in ruffles and lace. Clay has the master bedroom which he is turning into a stark black and red nightmare. Martha, ticked off at not getting the master bedroom, when she turned her entry in late and is lucky to be there at all, has two bathrooms and the laundry room. The usually unflappable Susan has the study. The quilting ladies have the bonus room.
That night when Meg stops by to double check and make sure everything is locked up she hears shots and ducks into the study to call the sheriff's office. Once she's sure the person's gone she goes against dispatcher's Debbie Ann's advice and heads up to the master bedroom where the shots came from to find Clay on the bed with a bullet in his head. Most of the room has had an ax taken to it, which makes no sense if Clay was killed for all the trouble he has been causing. Besides, it seems as though all the designers have alibis. They were either with other people or each other during the murder. Was Clay really the target or was he just there by chance and happened to get in someone's way? There were enough people who wanted him dead, that's true enough, but there's more here than meets the eye. And while Meg swears that she's going to leave the mess with the Sheriff as she has too much to do, she gets drawn in and determined to find the answers all before the opening of the show house.
“Well, what do you want to be this year?” I’d asked. It wasn’t as if there were a lot of choices in a nativity play. Unless Robin decided to spice things up and add scenes not found in the original text. Based on the boys’ preferences, I suspected a scene with pirates would go down well with most of the participants. Perhaps instead of arriving in Bethlehem on a donkey, the Holy Family could come by boat, allowing Joseph to fend off pirates along the way. Or, better yet, what if the Wise Men could encounter a party of Imperial storm troopers—also bound for Bethlehem and clearly up to no good—and repel them with their light sabers?
-Donna Andrews (The Nightingale Before Christmas p 223)
Their crooks were polished till they shone; their belts were made of gold-brocade cord left over when Mother had gotten new curtain ties for her dining room, and we’d delighted them with long, fussy brown beards. It was going to look as if two members of ZZ Top were moonlighting in the hills outside Bethlehem.
-Donna Andrews (The Nightingale Before Christmas p 224-5)
“Aren’t you afraid they’ll mess up your kitchen?” I asked Eustace at one point. “Darlin’, have you ever seen a church lady who didn’t feel compelled to leave someone else’s kitchen even cleaner than she found it?” Eustace said. “Those ladies just might be my secret weapon to winning the prize [of best room in the Show House].”Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Nightingale-Before-Christmas-Langslow-Mysteries/dp/1250049598/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1482762929&sr=1-1&keywords=the+nightingale+before+christmas
-Donna Andrews (The Nightingale Before Christmas p 393)