Monday, November 7, 2016



A mysterious woman appears on the doorstep of Great Aunt Sybil’s Attic in the middle of the night. Owner Anne Hillstrom lets her in, only to have the woman die in her arms. With no final words, and only an old lantern clutched to her chest, the dead woman provides Anne and her partner CC precious few clues to discover her murderer or why she spent her last moments in their antique store. The two Antique Hunters search for clues, finding themselves entangled in a centuries-old mystery leading them to a cemetery in Ireland where a ghost from the past has left them a cryptic message, and a killer has left them no choice but to discover his identity before he kills again. On their journey, the two best friends encounter antiques, romance and the key to a murder.


Only 49 more days left until Christmas. If you’re anything like me, you struggle finding just the right gift for your friends and family. I start my shopping early and often, beginning on December 26 of the previous year. For those I haven’t met already, I am Anne Hillstrom, antique hunter and star of the Antique Hunter Mystery Series by Vicki Vass. This year my shopping list is quite full with all the new friends I’ve met through my adventures with my business partner and dearest friend, CC Muller.

When we opened our antique store, Great-Aunt Sybil’s Attic, I thought life couldn’t get any better. All our blog fans came to the opening and shared their requests for orphaned artifacts. Finding the right home for these antiques is my greatest pleasure in life. But then tragedy struck as it is want to do, when an old woman carrying an antique lantern appeared on our doorstep and collapsed in my arms. Her dying words sent us on a journey that changed our lives forever.

Thankfully Vicki was able to chronicle our adventure as she always does. But it left me woefully behind in my holiday shopping. As I closed the store for the night, I glanced around at all the beautiful antiques we have collected. Above the cash register, Aunt Sybil’s portrait smiled at me, giving me inspiration and the key to my dilemma. This year, I’d give memories for Christmas.

I asked each one of my friends and family to write a ‘Dear Santa’ letter, including a list of their heart’s desires and their favorite memories of their childhood Christmases. I checked the list with no need to check it twice because all my friends are nice. Well, Betsy Buttersworth has a tendency to be naughty. She’s always trying to outbid me at auctions and flirt with my on-again, off-again boyfriend, the very tall and very British detective Nigel Towers. But it’s Christmas and all is forgiven.

For that reason, I began with Betsy’s wish list. Betsy and I were best friends at one time growing up on the northwest side of Chicago. Her favorite memory was Christmas dinner at her grandmother’s house in 1976. Even as a young girl, Betsy appreciated fine things. All her cousins would gather around the long mahogany table, next to the roaring fire. Her grandmother’s finest bone china and silver candlesticks set next to pine cones, poinsettias and gold ornaments. After the feast was finished, the children would sip hot chocolate from her gold adorned, hand-painted Haviland Limoges chocolate service. It was literally Betsy’s first taste of the joy of fine china. It took me some time but I found it.

For my dear cousin, Suzanne, and her sweet little girls, it was a strange request but one I understood quite well. Our beloved Grandpa Booty Hillstrom, so named for his workboots, was known for his dill pickles. When he left Sweden in the early 1900s, he brought with him the Hillstrom family pickling jar. Suzanne and I played with it as young girls, pretending to make pickles for all dolls. It was a memory I held fond also. That jar had long been lost. It took some doing but I found almost the exact jar on eBay. Now she can continue the tradition with her daughters.

And, for my dearest CC, I searched estate sales near and far and found her the perfect gift. Even as a young girl, she knew she wanted to be a journalist. She would come over to my house and interview my dolls, writing up stories about the day’s events. And, occasionally we would sneak into her father’s study where she would click away on his old Remington portable typewriter. I found one in perfect condition. I imagined all her stories she would write and all the stories that had been written on this piece of American history.

As I went through my Christmas list, I realized I had not written one for myself. I sat, sipping my tea, with my white Persian, Sassy, curled around my feet by the fire and her naughty kitten, Sybil, laying across the top of my wingback chair. I thought about all the blessings in my life, all the people who have come and gone, and I realized the gift I wanted for Christmas was to share these memories with my friends and family. And maybe just maybe a Sterling Silver soup tureen for my Christmas table. But I’d be happy with just the memories, too. What about you? Perhaps you should ask your friends and family for a Christmas memory list.


With a passion for shopping and antiques, Vicki Vass turned in her reporter’s notebook to chronicle the adventures of Anne and CC, two antique hunters who use their skills to solve a murder case.
Vicki has written more than 1,400 stories for the Chicago Tribune as well as other commercial publications including Home & Away, the Lutheran and Woman’s World. Her science fiction novel, The Lexicon, draws on her experience in Sudan while writing about the ongoing civil war for World Relief.
She lives in the Chicago area with her husband, writer and musician Brian Tedeschi, son Tony, Australian shepherd Bandit, kittens Terra and Pixel, seven koi and Gary the turtle.

Connect with Vicki:
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