A Christmas Beginning: A Novel Hardcover – Oct 30 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Mystery author Perry returns to holiday fare (after last year's A Christmas Secret) and sends rumpled London policeman Runcorn to a lonely Welsh island for Christmas, where he gets pulled into the case of the murder of Olivia Costain, the town vicar's lively single sister. Runcorn employs his bare-knuckle investigative skills in interviewing Olivia's family and her various suitors, to the chagrin of the local constable, Sir Alan Faraday, whose pursuit Olivia rejected. Runcorn's modest, unflashy ways carry this moody, understated mystery. (Oct.)
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Praise for the Christmas novels of Anne Perry
A Christmas Secret
“A delightful little book . . . Perry’s gift is that she can evoke a sense of place and time while still producing the thrills and chills expected of a modern-day mystery writer.”
–The Orlando Sentinel
A Christmas Guest
“[A] satisfying tale.”
–The Wall Street Journal
A Christmas Visitor
“[Perry] creates excellent winter atmosphere in the wild, snowy lands of northern England.”
–The Arizona Republic
A Christmas Journey
“One of the best books to brighten the joyous season.”
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Superintendent Runcorn of Scotland Yard has decided to spend Christmas in Wales, on the Isle of Angelsey to be precise. Having just closed a particularly difficult and nasty, and weary of the city, Runcorn has decided to spend Christmas as far away from the city as possible. And really, the beautiful but bleak snow laden island seems to satisfy all his requirements. It is literally the last place Runcorn would expect a violent murder involving one of the gentry to take place. And yet, that is exactly the situation he finds himself in the middle of when he discovers the body of the vicar's beautiful sister in the churchyard. The chief constable would like nothing better than to blame some passing stranger of the crime. But Runcorn knows that only an intimate friend of the murdered girl could have committed the crime. And when Mrs. Melisande Ewart, the young woman, who had, in a previous case (and I'm ashamed to admit I cannot remember which installment this was) captured Runcorn's heart, presses him to help discover the identity of the murderer, Runcorn realises that he has no choice but to comply...
What I liked about "A Christmas Beginning" was that you really got to see another side of the rough, prickly and defensive Runcorn. (Fans of the Monk books will remember him as a character who was, at first, quite antagonistic towards Monk, but in the more recent offering has ended up becoming a friend). In this short story, we see Runcorn coming to grips with his insecurities and acting on his convictions. It marks a new beginning for this character -- hence the apt title -- and works as a promise of things to come. Mystery-wise, though, "A Christmas Beginning" is a tad disappointing, and the ending, in spite of the romantic note, had a rushed feel to it. Which is why, I'd recommend it more for fans of the series, interested in seeing the development of a minor but key character.
Shortly after arriving, Runcorn runs into John Barclay and past memories come bursting forward. Runcorn has never been able to forget Barclay's widowed sister, Melisande Ewart. So Runcorn is happy when he spies Melisande at Sunday service. He also meets the local vicar, Arthur Costain. Life is beginning to look rosy once more.
Things take a turn for the worst when Runcorn comes upon the body of the reverend's younger sister. The local constable, Warner, has never dealt with such on the secluded island and asks for Runcorn's help. Runcorn is happy to be of service. But Sir Alan Farady, the chief constable of the county, arrives and is not so keen on the idea, especially since rumor has it that Faraday is soon to become officially engaged to Melisande.
**** A charming tale set during the holiday season for all mystery fans. Though romance may bloom for the superintendent, the focus is mainly on the death of Olivia. Anyone seeking a story with hot romance in the foreground need to look elsewhere. Author Anne Perry runs a clean story for the more serious minded.
It is not wonder to me that this author has become well known for her Christmas tales. They are truly worth reading more than once. ****
Reviewed by Detra Fitch of Huntress Reviews.
This year, she features Runcorn, the policeman who used to clash with Monk - We always seen the rough side of Runcorn. He and Monk would clash terribly, but get the job done...They had investigated a murder in London and one brave woman stepped up and helped them - it was some time ago, but Runcorn still remembers her beauty, bearing, and sweetness. He didn't dare think she saw him as more than a policeman.
Runcorn leaves London to celebrate Christmas in Wales - He goes to the local Church and meets the Vicar and his wife, and the vicar's sister. Olivia is a free spirit - for Victorian standards - Runcorn sees the beautiful lady that helped the detectives in London - Melisande Ewart -
and he realizes he loves her - but he isn't in the gentry.
Olivia is found murdered and Runcorn joins in the investigation. During that time, Melisande meets Runcorn every opportunity she can to encourage him to continue his work.
He unravels the mystery of who on a small island in Wales murdered a young lady. He also unravels the mystery of his heart.
It is a good read that turns an unlikeable Runcorn into a three-dimensional man who feels and strives to be the finest he can be -