After reading several of Anne Perry's Christmas stories this one was the one I looked forward to. A country estate buried under several snow storms, no one able to leave, and a mysterious stranger who arrives out of no where and seems to have no connection to anyone. The Agatha Christie fan in me knew it had to be good. Unfortunately for over a hundred pages the book is about trying to adapt a book into a play and the interactions of the actors. Several times I actually fought to read on and considered giving up altogether. But things began to evolve and once Caroline trips over the body in the night the story starts. Once again though it took too long for the story to begin as the ending was sort of rushed through and there was no clues or hints about who the killer was or who the mysterious stranger really was. So it wasn't my favourite of these Christmas stories, but it certainly wasn't the worst either. I can only hope that this year's story is a good one.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
A vampire ChristmasOct. 30 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
Anne Perry's Christmas novel does not actually have much Christmas in it; however it is a stand-alone novel. You do not need to have read any of the previous novels. The main characters are introduced immediately, the time period and purpose are set and we are drawn in immediately. Even if you are not a mystery buff a reader might be fascinated with the progress of this novel.
An acting company, led by Joshua Fielding is invited to a Yorkshire manor house to put on a play written by the owner's daughter about the recently published book -`Dracula'. What much of the novel becomes is an interesting analysis of how a book becomes a play, with all of the problems and rewards of actors and a writer working together. Intertwined in the plot is a visitor who seems to know too much about Dracula and then the family and the acting company's intermingling personalities. Much is emphasized concerning the idea that one must invite evil into your home, it does not appear on its' own. Caroline, the older wife of Joshua must solve the gruesome murder that occurs in the snowbound house. All that she, the acting company and the owner of the mansion and his family know for certain is that the visitor, Mr. Ballin, is certainly not the one who has committed the murder.
This book would appeal to fans of mysteries and even of Dracula and those who enjoy the technical aspects of staging a play. If you are looking for that sweet little Christmas read, this might not fulfill your desires, but it is still an interesting look into the life of 1800's England and for the fans of Perry's Charlotte and Pitt novels.
Scotland Yard Inspector Thomas Pitt's mother-in-law Caroline Fielding and her husband Joshua the actor travel to Whitby, York for a performance of Bram Stoker's recently published novel Dracula. Alice Netheridge has adopted the horror thriller to be performed on the stage at the town where the Count first disembarked on English soil. Joshua will direct the play with hopes of obtaining major funding from Alice's wealthy father Charles for next spring's theatre productions. Charles hosts the Fielding couple and actors from Joshua's troupe.
A heavy snowstorm isolates everyone at the mansion on the hill. While the weather outside is frightful, a straggler Anton Ballin arrives asking for sanctuary from the storm. He uncannily resembles Dracula and makes recommendations to improve the production that sound like someone who is a vampire insider. Soon after his arrival, murder follows. With everyone locked inside the mansion believing Ballin is the cold blooded killer, Caroline investigates.
The latest Anne Perry Victorian Christmas mystery (see Silent Night and A Christmas Odyssey) is a superb locked mansion whodunit as Caroline proves to be a capable detective and a wonderful protagonist who holds the entertaining tale together. The cast is solid while Carline's detecting is clever fun. Fans will enjoy Pitt's in-law as an amateur sleuth investigating a homicide.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
It was a dark and stormy night in the isolated mansion....Nov. 7 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
A Christmas Homecoming by Anne Perry 2011
This is my favorite so far of Anne Perry's Christmas novels, short little treats she comes out with for her fans each year at this time. Indeed, I like it better than any of her work that I have read for some time -- her major series novels have become even more intensely finicky, the series story arcs often top heavy, to the point where they have become speed-reading skimmers for me, or I simply don't bother. The nice thing about the Christmas novels is that they take a side character from one of her Victorian series (the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series, or the WIlliam Monk series) and make them the central character in a more simply structured and shorter (about a half to a third as long) mystery. That character is often physically separated from the series' London haunts (in one case to far distant, wild, Ireland!), but even when not s/he is dependent on their own devices, not embedded in the web of characters that work on a case from multiple perspectives in the main novels. Their short length keeps the fine attention to detail characteristic of Perry to a level more suitable to at least my taste, and enforces a more straightforward resolution than the major novels with their digressions and red herrings. One reviewer mentioned that you don't need to have read the previous volumes in the Christmas series. Quite true, but it would certainly help if you are at least familiar with the series from which the central character is derived.
A Christmas Homecoming features Charlotte Pitt's mother Caroline, who, following the death of Charlotte's father, eventually fell in love with and married a most unsuitable man. Joshua Fielding was not only considerably younger than Caroline, but an actor and Jewish to boot. So in middle age, Caroline found herself cast out from the prissy upper middle class society that had been her whole life into theatre society and the sometimes uncertain role of an actor's wife .. and she thrived on it.
Joshua and Caroline are on their way to spend the Christmas holiday at the estate of Charles Netheridge outside of the Yorkshire fishing village of Whitby, where they will meet other members of Joshua's troupe to stage a dramatic presentation of Bram Stoker's hot new novel, Dracula, adapted by Netheridge's daughter Alice. This very stretch of coast is also where Dracula made landfall in England in the novel. Netheridge has supported Fielding in the past, and, if the play is a success, they hope he will sponsor them for the coming season.
The Fieldings, and the rest of the actors, arrive nine days before the performance on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas), just before a major storm snows them in. Introductions are made -- rounding out the household are Alice's fiance Douglas Paterson and Charles's wife Eliza -- and a preliminary reading of the script has Joshua declaring ruefully, "But it's actually awful." Fortunately, there may be time to ... diplomatically ... rewrite the script, rehearse the play, and convince the skeptical Etheridge and the antagonistic Paterson that it's worth doing at all.
It is a dark and stormy night, with the wind howling and the snow blowing crosswise in the light of thewindows when .. Lo! .. there is a knocking at the door!! A stranded traveller, tall, handsome, sepulchral, whose carriage has broken down and who has struggled through the snow drifts, is begging succour. Etheridge can do naught but offer him hospitality, but Anton Ballin proves to be not only charming but to have a deep knowledge of vampire lore, Stoker's book, and excellent suggestions for modifying and staging the play. Perhaps too much so?
This has been the setup. I won't say much about the actual plot, the mystery. One aspect I found quite nice was the fact that the murder (their has to be a murder!) doesn't take place until over halfway through the book. This keeps us guessing not only who done it, but who it is going to be done to. With the party unable to send for the police, Caroline (on the basis of her son in law's position as a policeman) takes over the investigation. The resolution is surprising, though well developed.
This novel isn't quite as simple as the above outline suggests. There are added levels of complexity, in particular the relations between the troupe members; the ghost of Etheridge's mother, whose memory and interior design tastes have lingered and oppress poor, timid Eliza; and the thorny relation of Alice and Paterson. This is a bit more than we have come to expect form the Christmas novels, and makes this one in particular more of a fully realized novel than a mere confection. I don't hesitate to give this an enthusiastic 5 *'s.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A Pleasant Cozy, But A Poorly Crafted Mystery!Dec 11 2011
Dennis A. Pascale
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
This is my first Anne Perry novel, but it certainly won't be my last. Despite my title, I want to say that I actually enjoyed the book. I was looking for a small diversion to read for the holidays. I have known about Anne Perry, but I've never gotten around to reading any of her works. Then I found out that she writes an annual Christmas mystery, that is usually a stand alone novel. Plus, being relatively short, I thought this would be a great introduction into her world and I was quite pleased. The characters are interesting and being a lover of classic, cozy mysteries, the setting (an isolated, snowbound mansion), was just too perfect. The book made me want to check out the other titles in this series. Charlotte is a great character, and an ideal amatuer detective. The other characters are true cliches, but are also well written. In fact, in a mystery novel, you want cliches: the mysterious stranger, the wealthy, if narrow-minded lord and his put-upon, mousy wife. The actor with a big ego, etc. There's nothing wrong with any of this, it's what mystery readers expect. Anne Perry delivers all of this, in a nice little package. I would also add, if you are a fan of the novel Dracula, or at least have a general idea of the novel, this book is even more interesting. I found that I enjoyed watching the actors come up with ways to perform certain scenes, to try and make a workable play out of the book. In fact, once the murder is committed and the troupe decides that the show can't go on, I found I was a little dissappointed. Now for some of the bad points. First, except for the snowstorm, there is nothing really to do with Christmas in this book. The house doesn't even decorate, due to the tragedy. It makes sense, but I was hoping that the mix of Christmas and Halloween (in the play of Dracula) would be an interesting twist, but the book leans more towards the play than the holiday. Again, this isn't really a bad thing, I was just hoping for more. The actual let down for me was in the solving of the crime. I don't know how the solutions to her other novels work out, but as a mystery reader, I have to cry "no fair" with this solution. I enjoy "fair play" clues, that the reader can use to guess at the solution. I don't mind being fooled, but I do want clues in my mystery. The fact that the solution comes about because our detective remembers something from her past, doesn't sit well with me. At least this past episode should have somehow been written earlier in the book for the reader to understand. Maybe a passing mention of the person's name and the past crime associated with them. And still, with all that, not enough evidence to charge the guilty party. Perhaps you have to read the rest of the series? Maybe this past crime has been detailed in a pervious novel, but still a recap of some sort should then have been used. Yes, justice prevails and everything is wrapped up in a neat little package for Christmas, but I was just expecting a little better. Still, Anne Perry has a nice writing style, the characters are fun and well developed and she has a firm grasp on the period. Like I said, a pleasant read, but a little disappointed with the mystery. Still, I look forward to reading more in these series.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Scary Snowy Story!May 21 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I like these short novelettes of Anne Perry's that come out around the Christmas season. This one is unusual in that it deals with Joshua and Caroline Fielding and an actor's troupe that are invited to a manor house in Yorkshire for Christmas. The play they are performing was written by Alice Netheridge, the daughter of the owner. It is based on the new novel of the year, Dracula by Bram Stoker. Of course there is this blinding snow storm where no one is able to venture out of the house and a lot of squabbling among the actors and residents of the house. A stranger arrives, A Mr. Ballin, and this is where a lot of imagination and fear takes over. There is a murder of course, staged in the fashion of a vampire story, and the rest of the plot involves Caroline, mother of Charlotte Pitt, to try and solve the crime and mystery of who all these people in the house actually are and who had the motive to commit the crime. The police can't be called because no one can get to them because of all the snow. What will happen next? Who knows? There was not a lot of the usual Christmas spirit in this book because the circumstances prevent the guests from really celebrating, but it was pretty dramatic in the end! It was also interesting to see the actors and company attempt to perform a play in a country house having to rely on whatever props and lighting they could find.