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A Christmas Guest

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Cantankerous and vinegar-tongued Grandmama, from Anne Perry's Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series, is the leading character in this Christmas novel, which unfolds in the chilly, windswept Romney Marshes off the English Channel. Grandmama arrives on a holiday visit to the home of Charlotte's parents, where a fellow guest-an outcast from her own family-is subsequently murdered. Like the heroes before her in Anne Perry's Christmas novels, Grandmama is called upon to play the role of ...

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A Christmas Guest

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Overview

Cantankerous and vinegar-tongued Grandmama, from Anne Perry's Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series, is the leading character in this Christmas novel, which unfolds in the chilly, windswept Romney Marshes off the English Channel. Grandmama arrives on a holiday visit to the home of Charlotte's parents, where a fellow guest-an outcast from her own family-is subsequently murdered. Like the heroes before her in Anne Perry's Christmas novels, Grandmama is called upon to play the role of amateur detective.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
"Grandmama," the sharp-tongued Mariah Ellison from the Pitt series mysteries, makes a Christmas visit in this holiday homicide tale. With her daughter away in Paris, cantankerous Grandmama is forced to spend the Yuletide season in the chilly, windswept, godforsaken Romney Marshes with her good-natured but hopelessly provincial daughter-in-law. Just when Mariah decides that things couldn't possibly get worse, an unwelcome visitor winds up dead. Now, before she can deck any halls with any bloody boughs of holly, Mariah must solve the crime. Worthy of Dorothy Sayers.
Publishers Weekly
Charlotte's tetchy Grandmama from Perry's Charlotte and Thomas Pitt mysteries does a bit of sleuthing on her own (and learns the true meaning of Christmas) in the author's latest holiday treat (A Christmas Visitor). When the London lady finds herself banished to the Romney Marshes home of her former daughter-in-law, Caroline (now married-scandalously, in Grandmama's opinion-to a younger actor), she is more than indignant. As if it isn't bad enough to be exiled to "some bog by the sea" at Christmastime, another guest soon arrives: "pointlessly joyous" Maud Barrington, the middle daughter of an old local family who has returned after 40 years of travel in Muslim Africa. Maude's family won't have her; they think she'll be an embarrassment to a visiting peer. Grandmama doesn't take to brash, vivid Maude, either-but as soon as Maude is discovered, suddenly and suspiciously dead in her bedroom, Grandmama regrets her coldness and vows to uncover the truth. When she imparts the sad news to Maude's family in the nearby town, she finds the reaction of Maude's two sisters strange. Their husbands, too, seem odd. Who might be the guilty party? Grandmama digs deep into family secrets and betrayals and becomes a whole new person along the way in this quick and enjoyable read. (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In the third volume of Perry's holiday series (after A Christmas Visitor and A Christmas Journey), tart Grandmama from Perry's Charlotte and Thomas Pitt mysteries turns amateur detective when a fellow guest at the home of Charlotte's parents is murdered. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
Praise for the Christmas novels of Anne Perry

A Christmas Journey

“A Christmas Journey is that rarest of seasonal thrillers: one that exemplifies the message and spirit of the holiday. . . . This brief work has an almost Jamesian subtlety, and with its powerful message of responsibility and redemption–‘We need both to forgive and to be forgiven’–it conveys a moral force in keeping with the season.”
–The Wall Street Journal

“One of the best books to brighten the joyous season.”
–USA Today

A Christmas Visitor

“[Perry] has a flair for humor, and the names she chooses for her characters are so wondrous it’s a pity to kill any of them off.”
–Richmond Times-Dispatch

“A heartwarming family reunion . . . [Perry] creates excellent winter atmosphere in the wild, snowy lands of northern England.”
–The Arizona Republic

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780792737858
  • Publisher: Sound Library
  • Publication date: 11/28/2005
  • Series: Christmas Mysteries Series, #3
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Product dimensions: 7.12 (w) x 6.54 (h) x 1.57 (d)

Meet the Author

Anne Perry
ANNE PERRY is the bestselling author of the World War I novels No Graves as Yet, Shoulder the Sky, Angels in the Gloom, At Some Disputed Barricade, and We Shall Not Sleep; as well as five holiday novels: A Christmas Journey, A Christmas Visitor, A Christmas Guest, A Christmas Secret, and A Christmas Beginning. She is also the creator of two acclaimed series set in Victorian England. Her William Monk novels include Dark Assassin, The Shifting Tide, and Death of a Stranger. The popular novels featuring Thomas and Charlotte Pitt include Long Spoon Lane, Seven Dials, and Southampton Row. Her short story "Heroes" won an Edgar Award. Anne Perry lives in Scotland. Visit her website at anneperry.net.

Biography

Born in London in October 1938, Anne Perry was plagued with health problems as a young child. So severe were her illnesses that at age eight she was sent to the Bahamas to live with family friends in the hopes that the warmer climate would improve her health. She returned to her family as a young teenager, but sickness and frequent moves had interrupted her formal education to the extent that she was finally forced to leave school altogether. With the encouragement of her supportive parents, she was able to "fill in the gaps" with voracious reading, and her lack of formal schooling has never held her back.

Although Perry held down many jobs—working at various times as a retail clerk, stewardess, limousine dispatcher, and insurance underwriter—the only thing she ever seriously wanted to do in life was to write. (In her '20s, she started putting together the first draft of Tathea, a fantasy that would not see print until 1999.) At the suggestion of her stepfather, she began writing mysteries set in Victorian London; and in 1979, one of her manuscripts was accepted for publication. The book was The Cater Street Hangman, an ingenious crime novel that introduced a clever, extremely untidy police inspector named Thomas Pitt. In this way an intriguing mystery series was born…along with a successful writing career.

In addition to the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt novels, Perry crafts darker, more layered Victorian mysteries around the character of London police detective William Monk, whose memory has been impaired by a coach accident. (Monk debuted in 1990's The Face of a Stranger.) She also writes historical novels set during the First World War (No Graves as Yet, Shoulder the Sky, etc.) and holiday-themed mysteries (A Christmas Journey, A Christmas Secret, etc), and her short stories have been included in several anthologies.

Good To Know

Some fun and fascinating outtakes from our interview with Anne Perry:

The first time I made any money telling a story I was four and a half years old—golden hair, blue eyes, a pink smocked dress, and neat little socks and shoes. I walked home from school (it was safe then) with my lunchtime sixpence unspent. A large boy, perhaps 12 or 13, stopped me. He was carrying a stick and threatened to hit me if I didn't give him my sixpence. I told him a long, sad story about how poor we were—no food at home, not even enough money for shoes! He gave me his half crown—five times sixpence! It's appalling! I didn't think of it as lying, just escaping with my sixpence. How on earth he could have believed me I have no idea. Perhaps that is the knack of a good story—let your imagination go wild, pile on the emotions—believe it yourself, evidence to the contrary be damned. I am not really proud of that particular example!

I used to live next door to people who had a tame dove. They had rescued it when it broke its wing. The wing healed, but it never learned to fly again. I used to walk a mile or so around the village with the dove. Its little legs were only an inch or two long, so it got tired, then it would ride on my head. Naturally I talked to it. It was a very nice bird. I got some funny looks. Strangers even asked me if I knew there was a bird on my head! Who the heck did they think I was talking to? Of course I knew there was a bird on my head. I'm not stupid—just a writer, and entitled to be a little different. I'm also English, so that gives me a second excuse!

On the other hand I'm not totally scatty. I like maths, and I used to love quadratic equations. One of the most exciting things that happened to me was when someone explained non-Euclidean geometry to me, and I suddenly saw the infinite possibilities in lateral thinking! How could I have been so blind before?

Here are some things I like—and one thing I don't:

  • I love wild places, beech trees, bluebell woods, light on water—whether the light is sunlight, moonlight, or lamplight; and whether the water is ocean, rain, snow, river, mist, or even a puddle.

  • I love the setting sun in autumn over the cornstooks.

  • I love to eat raspberries, pink grapefruit, crusty bread dipped in olive oil.

  • I love gardens where you seem to walk from "room to room," with rambling roses and vines climbing into the trees and sudden vistas when you turn corners.

  • I love white swans and the wild geese flying overhead.

  • I dislike rigidity, prejudice, ill-temper, and perhaps above all, self-righteousness.

  • I love laughter, mercy, courage, hope. I think that probably makes me pretty much like most people. But that isn't bad.
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      1. Also Known As:
        Juliet Hulme
      2. Hometown:
        Portmahomack, Ross-shire, U.K
      1. Date of Birth:
        October 28, 1938
      2. Place of Birth:
        Blackheath, London England

    Read an Excerpt

    A Christmas Guest


    By Anne Perry

    Random House

    Anne Perry
    All right reserved.

    ISBN: 0345483804


    Chapter One

    "I do not accept it!" Mariah Ellison said indignantly. It was intolerable.

    "I am afraid there is no alternative," Emily replied. She was wearing a beautiful morning dress of pale water green with fashionably large sleeves and a sweeping skirt. With her fair coloring, it made her look prettier than she was, and having married money she had airs above her station.

    "Of course there is an alternative!" Grandmama snapped, staring up at her from her chair in the withdrawing room. "There is always an alternative. Why in heaven's name should you wish to go to France? It is only a week and a half until Christmas!"

    Emily sighed deeply. "We have been invited to spend Christmas in the Loire valley."

    "Where in France is immaterial. It is still not England. We shall have to cross the Channel. It will be rough and we shall all be ill."

    "I know it would be unpleasant for you," Emily conceded. "And the train journey from Paris might be tedious, and perhaps cold at this time of year . . ."

    "What do you mean perhaps?" Grandmama snapped. "There is no possible doubt."

    "So perhaps it is as well that you were not invited." Emily gave a very slight smile. "Now you will not have to worry how to decline with grace."

    Grandmama had a sharp suspicion that Emily was being sarcastic. She also had an unpleasant and surprisingly painful realization. "Do I take it that you are going to leave me alone in this house for Christmas while you go visiting wherever you said it was, in France?" She tried to keep her voice angry rather than betraying her sudden sense of being abandoned.

    "Of course not, Grandmama," Emily said cheerfully. "It would be quite miserable for you. But apart from that, you can't stay here because there will be nobody to care for you."

    "Don't be absurd!" Grandmama regained her temper with asperity. "There is a houseful of servants." Emily's Christmas parties were among the few things Grandmama had been looking forward to, although she would have choked rather than admit it. She would have attended as though it were a duty required of her, and then loved every moment. "You have sufficient housemaids for a duchess! I have never seen so many girls with mops and dusters in my life!"

    "The servants are coming with us and you cannot stay here alone at Christmas. It would be wretched. I have made arrangements for you to go and stay with Mama and Joshua."

    "I have no desire to stay with your mother and Joshua," Grandmama said instantly.

    Caroline had been her daughter-in-law, until Edward's death a few years ago had left her a widow of what Grandmama referred to as "an unfortunate age." Instead of settling into a decent retirement from society, as the dear Queen had done, and as everyone had expected of her, Caroline had married again. That in itself was indiscreet enough, but instead of a widower with means and position, which might have had considerable advantages and been looked upon with approval, she had married a man nearly two decades younger than herself. But worse than that, if anything could be, he was on the boards--an actor! A grown man who dressed up and strutted around on the stage, pretending to be someone else. And he was Jewish, for heaven's sake!

    Caroline had lost what wits she had ever had, and poor Edward would be turning in his grave, if he knew. It was one of the many burdens of Grandmama's life that she had lived long enough to see it. "No desire at all," she repeated.

    Emily stood quite still in the middle of the withdrawing room, the firelight casting a warm glow on her skin and the extravagant coils of her hair. "I'm sorry, Grandmama, but as I said, there really is no choice," she repeated. "Jack and I are leaving tomorrow, and there is a great deal of packing to do, as we shall be gone for at least three weeks. You had best take a good supply of warmer gowns, and boots, and you may borrow my black shawl if you would care to?"

    "Good gracious! Can they not afford a fire?" Grandmama said furiously. "Perhaps Joshua should consider a more respectable form of employment? If there is anything else on earth he is fitted for?"

    "It has nothing to do with money," Emily retorted. "They are spending Christmas in a house on the south coast of Kent. The Romney Marshes, to be exact. I daresay the wind will be chill, and one often feels the cold more when away from home."

    Grandmama was appalled! In fact she was so appalled it was several seconds before she could find any words at all to express her horror. "I think I misheard you," she said icily at last. "You mumble these days. Your diction used to be excellent, but since your marriage to Jack Radley you have allowed your standards to slip . . . in several areas. I thought you said that your mother is going to spend Christmas in some bog by the sea. As that is obviously complete nonsense, you had better repeat yourself, and speak properly."

    "They have taken a house in Romney Marsh," Emily said with deliberate clarity. "It is near the sea, and I believe the views will be very fine, if there is no fog, of course."

    Grandmama looked for impertinence in Emily's face, and saw an innocence so wide-eyed as to be highly suspicious.

    "It is unacceptable," she said in a tone that would have frozen water in a glass.

    Emily stared at her for a moment, regathering her thoughts. "There is too much wind at this time of the year for there to be much fog," she said at last. "Perhaps you can watch the waves?"

    "In a marsh?" Grandmama asked sarcastically.

    "The house is actually in St. Mary in the Marsh," Emily replied. "It is very close to the sea. It will be pleasant. You don't have to go outside if it is cold and you don't wish to."

    "Of course it will be cold! It is on the English Channel, in the middle of winter. I shall probably catch my death."

    To give her credit, Emily did look a little uncomfortable. "No you won't," she said with forced cheer. "Mama and Joshua will look after you very well. You might even meet some interesting people."

    "Stuff and nonsense!" Grandmama said furiously.

    Nevertheless the old lady had no choice, and the next day she found herself sitting with her maid, Tilly, in Emily's carriage. It made slow progress out of the city traffic, then sped up as it reached the open road south of the river and proceeded toward Dover, roughly a hundred and forty-five miles southeast of London.

    Of course she had known the journey would be dreadful. To make it in one day she had set out before dawn, and it would be late before they reached whatever godforsaken spot in which Caroline had chosen to spend Christmas. Heaven alone knew what it would be like! If they were in try- ing circumstances it might be no more than a cottage without civilized facilities, and so cramped she would spend the entire time forced into their company. It was going to be the worst Christmas of her life!

    Emily's thoughtlessness in gallivanting off to France, of all places, at this time of year, was beyond belief! It was an outrage against all family loyalty and duty.

    The day was gray and still, and mercifully the rain was no more than a spattering now and then. They stopped for luncheon, and to change the horses, and again a little after four o'clock for afternoon tea. By that time, naturally, it was dark and she had not the faintest idea where she was. She was tired, her legs were cramped from the long sitting, and unavoidably she was rattled and jolted around with the constant movement. And of course it was cold--perishingly so.

    They stopped again to inquire the way as lanes grew narrower and even more rutted and overhung. When at last they arrived at their destination she was in a temper fit to have lit a fire with the sheer heat of her words. She climbed out with the coachman's assistance, and stood on the gravel drive of what was obviously a fairly large house. All the lights seemed to be blazing and the front door was decorated with a magnificent wreath of holly.

    Immediately she was aware of the smells of smoke and salt, and a sharp wind with an edge to it like a slap in the face. It was damp, so no doubt it was straight off the sea. Caroline had obviously lost not only her money but the last vestige of her senses as well.

    The door opened and Caroline came down the steps now, smiling. She was still a remarkably handsome woman in her fifties, her dark mahogany hair only lightly sprinkled with the odd silver at the temples, which had a softening effect. She was dressed in deep, warm red and it gave a glow to her skin.

    "Welcome to St. Mary, Mama-in-law," she said a trifle guardedly.

    The old lady could think of nothing whatever that met the situation, or her feelings. She was tired, confused, and utterly miserable in a strange place where she knew perfectly well she was unwanted.

    It was several months since she had seen her erstwhile daughter-in-law. They had never been genuinely friends, although they had lived in the same house for over twenty years. During her son Edward's lifetime there had been a truce. After- ward Caroline had behaved disgracefully and would listen to no advice at all. It became necessary for Grandmama to find other accommodations because Caroline and Joshua moved around so much, as his ridiculous profession dictated. There was never a question of Grandmama living with Charlotte, the elder granddaughter. She had scandalized everyone by marrying a policeman, a man of no breeding, no money, and an occupation that defied polite description. Heaven only knew how they survived!

    So she had had no choice but to live with Emily, who at least had inherited very considerable means from her first husband.

    "Come in and warm yourself." Caroline offered her arm. Grandmama briskly declined it, leaning heavily on her stick instead. "Would you like a cup of tea, or hot cocoa?" Caroline continued.

    Grandmama would, and said so, stepping inside to a spacious and well-lit hall. It was a trifle low-ceilinged perhaps, but floored with excellent parquet. The stairs swept up to a landing above and presumably several bedrooms. If the fires were kept stoked and the cook were any good, it might be endurable after all.

    The footman carried her cases in and Tilly followed behind him. Joshua came forward and welcomed her, taking her cape himself. She was escorted into the withdrawing room where there was a blazing fire in a hearth large enough to have accommodated half a tree.

    "Perhaps you would enjoy a glass of sherry after such a long journey?" Joshua offered. He was a slender man of little above average height, but possessed of extraordinary grace, and the suppleness and beauty of an actor's voice. He was not handsome in a traditional sense--his nose was rather too prominent, his features too mobile--but he had a presence one could not ignore. Every prejudice in her dictated that she dislike him, yet he had sensed her feelings far more accurately than Caroline had.

    "Thank you," she accepted. "I would."

    He poured a full glass from the crystal decanter and brought it to her. They sat and made conversation about the area, its features, and a little of its history. After half an hour she retired to bed, surprised to find it was still only quarter past ten, a perfectly reasonable hour. She had imagined it to be the middle of the night. It felt like it, and it was irritating to be wrong.


    Excerpted from A Christmas Guest by Anne Perry Excerpted by permission.
    All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
    Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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    Customer Reviews

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    Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
    • Posted December 9, 2008

      more from this reviewer

      A very entertaining and special treat

      Since her granddaughter Emily and her husband are going to France for the Christmas Holidays, Grandmama Ellison is being shipped off to the home of her daughter in law Caroline. She doesn¿t want to go because after Grandmama¿s son died, Caroline married a man years younger than her who is a Jewish actor. Since she has no place else to say she travels to Caroline¿s place and makes sure Caroline and her husband knows she is very unhappy. Her displeasure increases tenfold when Joshua¿s relatives send their sister Maude who has been out of the country for forty years, to stay with them because they claim they have company and there is no room for her................. Maude and Grandmama are thrown together constantly and it is only when Maude dies in her sleep does Grandmama how much she grown to like her. The death was sudden and the empty bottle of peppermint syrup near Maude¿s bad makes Grandmama believe there was poison in the bottle given to the deceased. Grandmama starts snooping around trying to figure out is Maude was indeed murdered and if so, who hated her enough to kill her................. Anne Perry¿s Christmas tale carries quite a punch as Grandmama, a woman who out scrooges Scrooge, comes to realize through knowing Maude that a person can change for the better if they want to. Grandmama, the grandmother of Charlotte Pitt, discovers that seeking a killer leads her to examining her own behavior and that she needs to change. This is as much a characters study as it is a mystery and readers will find it a very entertaining and special treat............ Harriet Klausner

      3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted March 26, 2006

      Excellent!

      This book was excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed it. If you are a Anne Perry fan and are familar with most of the characters from the Pitt Series, you are in for a treat!

      1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted January 13, 2014

      more from this reviewer

      What a wonderful story! For all Anne Perry enthusiasts, this is

      What a wonderful story! For all Anne Perry enthusiasts, this is a nice change to have thrown in. It is still a murder mystery, but so much more, involving Grandmama as a sleuth! Plus she learns a lot about herself and well as solving a mystery. Highly recommend!

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    • Anonymous

      Posted December 16, 2011

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    • Anonymous

      Posted October 14, 2008

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