Merry Christmas, Murdock, by Robert J. Ray: Homicide for the Holidays

Originally published in 1989, Merry Christmas, Murdock ($14.95, 282 pp, ISBN: 978-1-60381-923-7) is Book 4 of Robert J. Ray’s Matt Murdock Murder Mystery series and an entertaining read at any time of year.

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“If you like your books to hit the ground running, then you will love this fast paced murder mystery that has several characters who have bad manners and others who try to do the right thing.”  Read more ….

–Mary’s Cup of Tea

“Riveting. Private-eye Murdock is a sophisticated Mike Hammer, and Ray writes with the sardonic wit of a Mickey Spillane mixed with the insight of a Parker.”

—Tribune, South Bend, Indiana

“The reading experience is immensely pleasurable …. Some of the turns of phrase in Merry Christmas are irresistible, the kind one wants to read more than once.”

—The Register, Orange County California

“Merry Christmas Murdock delivers a knockout punch. It comes wrapped in action and violence. But inside its rough
exterior there is warmth and humor. Much like the hardboiled detective whose story it tells.”

—The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Mississippi

“It’s nicer still when there’s a decent yarn to spin, decently told, and this latest of the Matt Murdock capers is better than
decent. The opening chapters are compelling …. This is an easy, unpretentious read. And Murdock is really awfully nice
to be around.”

—The Drood Review of Mystery

“It’s a fast-moving, what-will-we-find-out-next story, with some likable characters and some you love to hate.”

—Chronicle, Houston, Texas

“What a find author Robert J. Ray is …. Perhaps best of all, Mr. Ray has the rare ability to build tension bit by bit
by bit and keep much of this throughout the last two-thirds of the book, almost without pause …. A crackerjack piece of
plotting and writing and unhesitatingly recommended.”

—Mystery News

“The style is punchy, the fast talk is zippy and the final shoot-out a honey …. I’ll be on the lookout for Robert Ray’s
Matt Murdock in the future.”

—Trenton Times

“I liked the action-packed story line, the resiliency of the hero and the nifty, lucid prose.”

—Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, MA

Christmastime is here, and weary-but-wise private-eye Matt Murdock is short on funds and holiday spirit. There are no white Christmases in Newport Beach, California, but there are soggy ones. One rainy evening at the Xanadu Mall, a down-on-his-luck mystery writer named Marvin Holly meets a runaway teenager and autographs her book. As they exit the mall, they encounter the headlights of a speeding car. In the aftermath the author is missing and the girl is in a coma.

On an earlier case, Murdock befriended a precocious teenager named Cindy. Cindy is the product of a broken home, a very wealthy one, and her people would rather break Murdock’s face than accept his help finding out what happened to her biological father—the missing author from Xanadu mall. Meanwhile Murdock has been hired to find out why Heather, the daughter of a sexy but tightly wound senator named Jane Blasingame, was injured in a hit-and-run. Is she the teenager last seen with Cindy’s father? And was Heather really a member of the notorious San Diego gang, a group of wholesome looking youngsters who prey on unsuspecting salesmen?

Cindy’s mother and the fabulously wealthy Duke family—the clan of Cindy’s uncle—were not fans of Marvin Holly’s work … or the man himself. They certainly don’t want Murdock to locate him. How are Holly’s disappearance and the hit-and-run connected? Will the lovely senator fall for Murdock’s rugged charms? If the holidays don’t kill Murdock then this case will.

ROBERT J. RAY is the author of eight novels: Cage of Mirrors, The Heart of the Game, Bloody Murdock, Murdock for Hire, Dial “M” for Murdock, Merry Christmas, Murdock and Murdock Cracks Ice. A sixth Matt Murdock mystery—Murdock Tackles Taos—will be published in 2013. Ray is also the author of a popular non-fiction series on writing, The Weekend Novelist, and he shares writing techniques on writing at A native of Texas, Ray holds a PhD from the University of Texas, Austin. Tuesdays and Fridays, he writes at Louisa’s Bakery and Café in Seattle. For more information, click here.

Read on for an excerpt:

My answering machine clicked on, the red light winking like a gnat’s eyeball. I poured in the beef stock and set the fire on simmer and turned down the volume under Callas and sipped red wine while I waited for the message. Some old flame, I thought, happily married, inviting me over for a chummy family Xmas. Or some Scrooge of a bill collector, grousing at me to pay up or else. Or maybe a rich client. Merry Christmas, Murdock.

“Lancelot,” said the voice of Wally St. Moritz. “Wally here. Are you monitoring, dear boy?”

I picked up the phone, heard that hollow echo of the recorder bouncing back at me. “Hey, Professor. I’m on. Where are you?”

“El Toro General.”

“Ten days too early for your annual blues,” I said. “So they must be treating your tennis elbow.”

“Ho-ho-ho, as Santa says to greedy little mall monsters. Can you motor down here? I think I’ve unearthed a client.”

“One with money?”

“And trouble.” Wally paused. “All it needs is your presence. Your inimitable persuasive powers.”

I stirred the soup. “Who’s the client?”

“A state senator from Texas, with a wounded child, who is most impatient with local police procedure.”

“I identify with the impatient part. What kind of wound?”

“A hit-and-run.”

“Ouch. Where’d it happen?”

“Xanadu Mall, in the parking lot.”

“What time?”

“Last evening, nineish.”

It hadn’t been big enough to make the evening news. “Xanadu’s in the sheriff’s jurisdiction. What are they doing?”

“Not much. That’s why I’m calling you.”

“Does the senator know? Or is this your idea?”

“The Senator became interested when I explained you knew people on the inside.”

“Used to know.”

Wally sighed. “Be resourceful, Matthew. I assured the Senator you could help.”

It didn’t feel holiday hopeful. Josh McBride, my deputy pal inside the sheriff’s office, had retired to Idaho, where he was running a fishing camp for the tourists. The deputies I’d met on the street were aging jock hotdogs who still hugged dreams about making the jump into pro ball.

I eyed my soup and took another sip of wine. Inside, it was warm and toasty. Outside, it was nasty, cold, and wet. Problem: I needed the work. I’d had a gritty six days in San Diego, doing reference checks for Tritonics, Inc., a software company that was hiring a vice-president for marketing at a base salary of $120,000, plus perks and fringes. Out of four candidates, three had come up dirty as Hell’s Angels at an Oakland beer bust. The dirtiest had been handpicked by the Tritonics comptroller, a tightass named Binder, who was busily seeding his little dukedom with fawning supporters. Tritonics owed me two grand for my work, but since checks had to be signed by Binder, it would be Easter before I saw the money. Meanwhile, I had $104 in the checking account and Christmas was closing fast.

Would the Senator be my Santa?

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