With a demanding teaching job at Connecticut's elite Howard Academy and five poodles scampering around the house, Melanie barely has energy for the upcoming Christmas rush. But she unwraps an unexpected challenge when her brother and ex-husband, elated by the recent success of their country café, make a spontaneous bid on a dilapidated pine tree farm. Although the ten-acre lot had been a popular seasonal destination while the original owner was still alive, it'll take some sprucing up--and a small miracle or two--before the neglected place is in shape for December. Unfortunately, the impromptu business venture goes cold when the group discovers a purebred Maltese whimpering in the snow-covered grove--right beside a dead body. Pete, a squatter who camped out on the land, apparently met his end after a fallen fir tree branch knocked him on the head. But as Melanie and Aunt Peg investigate Pete's history and the terrible habit that cost him everything, it's clear his death was no accident. Now, Melanie must run through a flurry of likely suspects and muzzle a dogged murderer in time--or she'll be next on someone's deadly list.