Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Christmas Guest: Review

So, I finished this book by Anne Perry--A Christmas Guest. It's the final book for my Christmas Spirit Challenge commitment. And it was good. So, yeah, that's about how much brain power I've got at the moment. I'm sitting here trying to put together a nice little review for this nice little book and all that wants to come out is...slush. Seriously. Okay, Bev...pull yourself together. 'Cuz you know if you don't do the review now, everything you remember about the book is going to fall right out of your brain.

This is the third in Perry's Christmas mystery series. These books tend to focus on the supporting cast members from her series books. A Christmas Guest follows Grandmama Mariah Ellison as she is shipped off to spend the Christmas holidays with her daughter-in-law Caroline and Caroline's new husband Joshua. The vinegary Grandmama Ellison is none too happy about these arrangements. There she is expecting the usual fine holiday gatherings hosted by her well-to-do granddaughter Emily with lots of London entertainment and society only to be told that Emily and her husband are headed to France and Grandmama is not going along for the trip. Instead, she finds herself journeying to the chilly, windswept coastal village of Romney Marshes--where there is nobody who is anybody and nothing to do but visit the local church and admire its architecture or take brisk walks along the coast.

As if that's not enough, another Christmas guest is soon foisted upon them. Joshua's cousin Maude, who has not been in England for 40 years, has come home to find that the welcoming fires may be burning--but not for her. Her family pleads previous obligations that will prevent them from hosting her during the holidays and asks Joshua to take in another guest with nowhere else to go. Grandmama Ellison barely has time to work up a suitable snit over the unwelcome guest when a housemaid is unable to wake Maude one morning...and the woman is declared dead. Supposedly from a heart attack. But Mariah isn't satisfied. Maude was hale and hearty--outwalking the spry elderly woman in their few rambles along the coast and never seemed to be the least bit unwell.

Soon Mariah is on a quest--spurred by her "very proper feelings" that the dreadful news should be broken to Maude's family in person, she is soon ensconced in the family bosom and trying her hand at a bit of detective work. After all, if her granddaughter Charlotte and her unsuitable policeman husband can solve mysteries, surely she has the wits to do so as well. She begins by pretending grief over a brief, but serious friendship for the woman she had just met--but soon realizes how much she really had likde Maude and could have come to be such friends had they had the time. As Mariah uncovers secrets that resulted in Maude's murder, she uncovers truths about herself as well and...like her fellow Victorian, Scrooge, learns what it means to truly keep Christmas.

This was a very short novel. The mystery is not intricate, but the story is well told and it was nice to see Grandmama Ellison learn some very good lessons--about herself and about how to treat other people. A nice little slice of Christmas happy endings to make the season bright. Three stars.

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