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You heard it here first. Book one isn’t even published yet (another week until the official launch of Another Case in Cowtown, though you can get it on Amazon already of course), yet the second book of Moss Reid mysteries is already taking shape. It’s called… The Twelve Days of Cowtown. Do we detect a formula in the titles?

A sort of Christmas albumThe project started ever so modestly, as a Christmas short story. It was only supposed to be a small Chrismas present, something to give away to readers on the blog. Something slightly seasonal, humorous and dark, one more little case for Moss Reid to investigate, a “click here for the free download”…

It was provisionally titled Deadly Christmas Jumpers, because “deadly” can mean loads of very different things in Ireland – from “deadly buzz” (usually an innocuous thing) to “deadly weapon” (not so innocuous). The idea for that particular wee story came to me back in November.

Yet the tale kept getting bigger and longer. Soon it was the size of a novella (I’m not sure what the official wordcount of a novella has to be, but this thing was no longer short enough to be a short story and not long enough to be a full novel yet. Yes, the “novella” description wouldn’t be hoodwinking readers under the 2007 Consumer Protection Act).

Or maybe I could even call it a novelette. A bit of a mad word, that; one would have to lightly butter one’s frying pan and gently scramble one’s novelly words with a swiftly revolving fork before tackling a novelette. I’m not sure if I like the novelette word; it’s not nice; it feels a bit like calling a female author an “authorette” or “authoress”, or a female poet a “poetess”.

Anyway, then real life crept in. Crept in and onto the pages. It became much bigger, a prime suspect for Operation Transformation: a small fat novel that waddled over to the scales and found itself well over the 170-page mark, yet still refused to make a lifestyle change.

Most of the action spans a 12-day period (OK, clue is in the title) in the lead up to Christmas and – without giving too much away – here’s a tentative summary…

Dublin, December 2013: less than a fortnight until Christmas, the radio waves are full of top-up scandals, town is full of Christmas Jumpers, and Moss Reid isn’t full of festive cheer.

Because Moss Reid hates the C word (Christmas). And Moss Reid likes to keep the right priorities in life: eat, drink and investigate – in that order. But most of this month’s cases aren’t even paying customers: a missing person, a skip trace, a burglary, and feck all food in the fridge…

Then a dodgy politician is caught in a honeytrap, and asks Moss to solve a blackmail case that doesn’t make any sense.

In Mel Healy’s latest Moss Reid mystery, Stoneybatter’s gastronomic detective gets a crash course in how Irish politics really works, how Santa is causing mayhem around Cowtown, and how the soup kitchens can’t cope with a rising tide of homelessness.

Along the way are plenty of loose ends and digressions about the quirky side of life, the occasional death, the use-by date of various foodstuffs, and half a dozen seasonal recipes.

And because it’s all about Christmas and Yuletide crimes, I thought… um, hold on, wouldn’t it… yeah, wouldn’t it be nice and suitably perverse to publish it at Easter? Maybe on Good Friday – at least the print edition by then anyway, with the eBook available later in the year, maybe November? Will keep you posted.