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A Christmas Guest


A Christmas Guest

In Victorian England, Grandmama Mariah Ellison, chronically cranky
and miserable, must stay with the mother of Charlotte Pitt (of the
Charlotte and Thomas Pitt mystery series), Caroline
Fielding, and her younger actor-husband, Joshua, for the holidays.
Since Grandmama's daughter and son-in-law are off to France, she is
disgruntled at being shuffled off to chilly, windswept, and rustic
Romney Marshes. How dare her daughter treat her this way! She
prepares to be bored out of her mind.

Grandmama's boredom lasts only a few days. A new visitor, Maude
Barrington, arrives; she is a distant relative of Joshua's, and her
family inexplicably does not wish for her to stay with them for
Christmas. Vibrant Maude has spent 40 years away from England,
traveling the world's exotic desert destinations by herself. She
regales them with tales of the marvelous sites she's experienced
--- Persian gardens, African cities, and the scent of moonlit
jasmine blossoms. Grandmama is not charmed. She is jealous of the
attention Caroline and Joshua bestow on the interloper, and
appalled at the very idea of a lone Englishwoman traipsing through
foreign countries. However, deep down, she feels a certain interest
as she unwillingly spends time with the fascinating Maude.

Early one morning, a maid bursts into Grandmama's room with
horrendous news --- Maude is dead. Grandmama is quite put out: now
they will have to spend Christmas in mourning! Her dreary holidays
will become even worse, with everyone wearing black, the mirrors
covered, and all of them eating cold meats.

But Grandmama also feels sorrow. After all, like Grandmama herself,
Maude was a visitor at Romney Marshes because her family didn't
want her with them. She wishes she had let Maude know how much she
admired her. In retrospect, she feels great pangs at the loss of
someone who could have been a true friend. She wonders how the
almost obnoxiously healthy younger woman could have died. Soon
Grandmama focuses on the peppermint water Maude had mentioned she
would take that night for indigestion. Who gave Maude the herbal

Grandmama becomes determined to discover the truth surrounding
Maude's death. In fact, she feels she owes it to Maude and even
offers to travel to notify Maude's family of her demise. Grandmama
wonders if their rejection of Maude isn't related somehow to her

Grandmama is soon a guest at Maude's family's home. As Grandmama
attempts to elicit information from Maude's relatives, she
discovers how difficult effective sleuthing can be. Is she asking
the right questions? Will she find herself in danger? Even more
importantly, she delves into the mysteries of her own life that
explain her cantankerous personality. Her introspection leads her
to wonder if a life led without joy can be redeemed. Is she set in
her ways, or can she change at this late date?

The complex layers beneath Grandmama's waspish character deepen the
murder mystery plot, which more than compensates for a resolution
that feels the slightest bit rushed. As always, Anne Perry's
description of life in Victorian England is fascinating. A
CHRISTMAS GUEST is a quick and enjoyable read with an understated
and uplifting theme of redemption, making it a perfect refuge
during the harried holidays.


Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon ([email protected]) on December 27, 2010

A Christmas Guest
by Anne Perry

  • Publication Date: November 1, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 193 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0345483804
  • ISBN-13: 9780345483805