A CHRISTMAS HOMECOMING, Anne Perry, Ballantine, 2011, 9780345524638
It’s Black Friday today, and not quite the Christmas season, so I thought I’d post my February, 2012 HNR review of this un-Christmassy Christmas story.
Perry’s 2011 Christmas novella has little to do with Christmas: the reader looking for holly and ivy will be disappointed. This is a Victorian, horror-tinged murder mystery with a vampire theme. A company of players is hired to help a wealthy family’s daughter rewrite and produce a play based on the then-popular book, Dracula. They all become snowbound in an isolated mansion, and a gruesome murder takes place. It is solved by Caroline Fielding, the mother-in-law of Perry’s policeman character Thomas Pitt. She is at the mansion to accompany her actor husband, but there is no need to be familiar with the Pitt stories in order to understand this stand-alone short novel.
Overlooking the fact that there is no holiday warmth or cheer whatsoever, this is a gripping, fast-paced traditional mystery with an intriguing cast of both sympathetic and unsympathetic characters. The vampire theme and gradually increasing sense of evil and horror keep the pages turning, although the story seems better suited to Halloween. If jolly carol-singing and hearty bowls of wassail are not necessary in your Christmas fiction, this shivery nugget makes for a fast, entertaining read.