sacrificeHalloween in Elk Park. A member of the Elk Valley Historical Society wants genealogist Anna Denning to complete his painstaking research into the families of two other members. Before he can speak to Anna, however, he’s stabbed to death and propped against a bee hive with a pumpkin on his head.

Despite a gruesome introduction to the job at hand, Anna agrees to finish the dead history professor’s work. What she discovers is a mystery fashioned from lies, secret identities, hidden messages and the occult. As she digs into the past, Anna will also discover a link to a disturbing—and surprisingly bloody—present.

The Sacrifice is Karin Kaufman’s cozy mystery/Halloween card to the world; the third installment of the Anna Denning Mystery series. (Previous books include The Witch Tree and Sparrow House.) Much of the joy of cozy mysteries is derived from the personality of the heroine. Anna is plucky (not a favorite word, but so perfect for Anna), intelligent, and stubbornly optimistic. And this novel features a payoff for those who follow character development in a series—Anna has changes coming her way.

Like any fine novel, all of the elements of fiction receive ample attention from the author. The prose is straight-forward (a necessity for a genre that demands good, uninterrupted storytelling). And the setting, a small town in the Colorado mountains, is so vivid as to become a character on its own.

If you like smart, twisted plots and a genre that rewards a comfortable read late at night, late in the year, then you won’t do better than The Sacrifice. (Five stars out of five)


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