A Christmas Secret [NOOK Book]

Overview

Just in time for the holidays, Anne Perry gives her fans a marvelous gift: a new yuletide yarn full of light celebration and dark mischief.

Dominic Corde is thrilled to “fill the robe” as substitute vicar in the village of Cottisham, while the Reverend Wynter is away on a three-week Christmas holiday. Glad to escape his dreary London flat and a less-than-satisfying job as ...
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A Christmas Secret

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Overview

Just in time for the holidays, Anne Perry gives her fans a marvelous gift: a new yuletide yarn full of light celebration and dark mischief.

Dominic Corde is thrilled to “fill the robe” as substitute vicar in the village of Cottisham, while the Reverend Wynter is away on a three-week Christmas holiday. Glad to escape his dreary London flat and a less-than-satisfying job as church curate, Dominic and his beloved wife, Clarice, set off for what they hope will be a lovely winter getaway.

Upon arrival, in the midst of a frigid, exceptionally snowy season, Dominic and Clarice are welcomed by warm, hospitable neighbors and enchanted by the cozy, inviting vicarage. Everything seems almost too perfect. Dominic’s only concern is how he will be received by the congregation, who hold the Reverend Wynter in such high regard. But as Clarice soon discovers, she and Dominic have much more dire matters to worry about. It turns out that the Reverend Wynter isn’t on holiday at all–and that something very sinister has transpired.

As a blizzard leaves Cottisham treacherously snowbound and the isolated village swirls with unsavory secrets, Dominic and Clarice suddenly find themselves in deadly danger.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Anne Perry's Christmas novels (A Christmas Journey, A Christmas Visitor, et al.) are quickly becoming an annual literary holiday tradition for mystery lovers worldwide. For the last four years, she has given her fans a cozy, inspirational historical Yuletide yarn -- and the tradition continues in 2006.

The novel is set in 1890 England and featuries the Reverend Dominic Corde, a secondary character in Perry's Thomas and Charlotte Pitt novels (The Cater Street Hangman and Brunswick Gardens) and his new wife, Clarice. The couple receive "the greatest Christmas gift they could have been given," when the elderly vicar of a small village in Oxfordshire takes an unexpected vacation and Corde is asked to stand in for him temporarily over the holidays. Leaving behind a bleak, industrial London for the picturesque hamlet of Cottisham, the Cordes are absolutely ecstatic about the opportunity -- that is, until Clarice finds the body of the Reverend Wynter hidden away in the cellar. As Christmas quickly approaches, the Cordes investigate the shocking death by talking to the parishioners, some of whom are harboring atrocious secrets…

The appeal of Perry's Christmas novels isn't so much the intricate plot twists or the meticulously detailed Victorian Age ambiance; it's the timeless message behind the spirit of the holidays: forgiveness, compassion, and hope: "…a way forward to the best in ourselves and all that we can become." Amen to that. Paul Goat Allen
Publishers Weekly
Perry's latest short Christmas novel is a well-written if unsurprising period mystery, set in late 19th-century England. Reverend Dominic Corde and his wife, Clarice, are at a turning point in their lives; a chance opportunity has given Dominic the temporary position as vicar of a small village in Oxfordshire, substituting for the incumbent, Reverend Wynter. Their hopes that the position might become permanent are both enhanced and threatened when Clarice discovers Wynter's murdered corpse in the cellar. The resolution is not particularly complicated, but Perry does a nice job of weaving in themes of forgiveness and redemption without being heavy-handed. (Dec.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Best-selling mystery author Perry continues her yearly Christmas offering (A Christmas Journey) with this Victorian suspense tale. Dominic and Clarice Corde (from Brunswick Gardens) are due to take the place of a vacationing vicar but discover that instead of going on holiday the poor man has been brutally murdered. As the village becomes snowbound, the killer is still at large. Readers do not have to be familiar with Perry's mystery series to enjoy this story. For all mystery collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/06.] Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A vicar and his wife substitute for an Oxfordshire prelate on Christmas vacation. Anyone would leap at the chance to leave grimy 1890 London for the village of Cottisham, and Rev. Dominic Corde and Clarice, his bride of a year, are delighted to make the change. The locals are obviously attached to Rev. Wynter, the elderly vicar whose place Dominic will assume for the Christmas season, even though two of his closest friends have recently quarreled with him for reasons that remain obscure. Sir Peter Connaught, the local squire, speaks of their break more in sorrow than in anger, and John Boscombe, the vicar's former right-hand-man, doesn't speak of it at all. Soon enough Clarice discovers that Rev. Wynter's holiday took him no farther than the coke cellar, where he's lying with wounds that can't be explained by a heart attack or an accidental fall. Dr. Fitzpatrick, who examines the body, is heavily skeptical about the possibility of foul play, and Sir Peter recoils from the idea that the death could have anything to do with his family. Yet someone's professed love for the vicar was clearly a mask for something far more disturbing. As usual with Perry (Dark Assassin, 2006, etc.), the setup is more rewarding than the payoff. Apart from the mystery, however, the parable of sin and redemption rings true.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345495648
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/7/2006
  • Series: Christmas Mysteries Series , #4
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 212,353
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Anne Perry
Anne Perry is the bestselling author of No Graves As Yet, Shoulder the Sky, and Angels in the Gloom; three earlier holiday novels: A Christmas Journey, A Christmas Visitor, and A Christmas Guest; and two acclaimed series set in Victorian England. Her most recent William Monk novels are Dark Assassin and Death of a Stranger. The popular novels featuring Charlotte and Thomas Pitt include Southampton Row, Seven Dials, and Long Spoon Lane. Her short story “Heroes” won an Edgar Award. Anne Perry lives in Scotland. Visit her website at www.anneperry.net.


From the Hardcover edition.
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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

Clarice Corde leaned back in her seat as the train pulled out of the station in a cloud of steam. Smuts flew and engine roared as they gathered speed on their journey northward. The rain beat against the window; she could barely see the glistening rooftops of London. It was December 14, 1890, ten days until Christmas Eve. She had been married little more than a year, and she was far from used to being a vicar’s wife. Neither obedience nor tact came to her except with a considerable effort, but she made that effort for Dominic’s sake.

She glanced sideways at him now and saw him deep in thought. She knew he was concerned about his ability to rise to this opportunity they had been offered so unexpectedly. The elderly Reverend Wynter had taken a richly deserved holiday; therefore his church, in the small village of Cottisham in Oxfordshire, needed someone to stand in for him and care for his flock over Christmas.

Dominic had seized the chance. He was a widower who had abandoned a self-indulgent life and embraced the ministry somewhat late. Perhaps no one but Clarice saw beyond his startlingly handsome face and charm of manner to the doubts beneath. She loved him the more fiercely because she knew he understood his own weaknesses as well as the power of his dreams.

He looked up and smiled at her. Once again she was warmed by amazement that he should have chosen her: the awkward sister, the one with the slightly crooked nose that gave her face a wry, individual look, the one with the tactless tongue and the pungent sense of humor, rather than any of the reliable and more conventional beauties eager for his attention.

This chance to go to Cottisham was the greatest Christmas gift they could have been given. It was an escape from serving under the Reverend Spindlewood in the bleak area of industrial London to which he had been sent as curate.

How could Clarice reassure him that they expected only patience, and that he should be there to listen and comfort, to assure them of the message of Christmas and peace on earth?

She reached her hand across and touched his arm, tightening her fingers for a moment. “It will be good,” she said firmly. “And being in the country will be a delight.”

He smiled at her, his dark eyes bright, knowing what she meant to tell him.

They traveled for nearly two hours, most of it through gently rolling countryside, the fields now bare except for the meadows still green. The woodlands and copses were without leaf, and the higher crowns of the hills were dusted with snow. Here in the heart of England winter could be surprisingly fierce, and no doubt there was far worse weather to come.

For the most part the villages lay in the hollows, the first sight from the train windows being the steep spires of the churches, then the huddled roofs.

They reached the station nearest to Cottisham and hired a pony trap to take them the last few miles through winding lanes, up the brow of a long, ridge-backed hill, and down into the sloping valley.

The village was beautiful, even though it boasted little more than a wide green with a duck pond and houses all around it. Many of the dwellings were thatched, their bare winter gardens neatly tidied. Perhaps half a dozen narrow roads twisted away into the surrounding woods and the fields beyond. The church was Saxon: slate-roofed, with a square tower rising high against the wind-torn clouds.

The pony trap drew up in front of the rambling stone vicarage. The driver unloaded their cases onto the gravel and quickly drove away.

Clarice looked at the closed door, then at the fine Georgian windows. It was a beautiful house, but it seemed oddly blind, as if it were oblivious to their arrival, and they would knock on the oak door in vain. This was to be their home, and Dominic’s challenge and opportunity would be to preach and to minister without the supervision—or constant meddling—of the Reverend Spindlewood. Clarice knew she must behave with enthusiasm now, whatever doubt or loneliness she felt. That was what faith was about. Anyone can be cheerful when she is confident and the sun is shining.

She looked at Dominic once, then marched up to the front door and banged briskly with the lion’s head knocker.

There was total silence from inside.

“Stay here with the boxes,” Dominic said quietly. “I’ll go to the nearest house. They must have left the keys with someone.”

But before he could go more than a dozen steps a stout woman, her hair piled atop her head in an untidy knot, came bustling along the road. She struggled to hold a shawl around her shoulders against the wind.

“All right! All right! I’m coming,” she called out. “No hurry! It ain’t snowin’ yet. You must be the Reverend Corde. An’ Mrs. Corde, I take it?” She stopped in front of them and looked Clarice up and down dubiously, her blunt face skeptical. “I s’pose you know how to care for a house, an’ all?” she said in a tone close to accusation. “I’m Mrs. Wellbeloved. I look after the vicar, but I can’t do no more for you than a bit o’ the heavy work, ’cos I’ve got family coming for Christmas, an’ I need me holiday, too. In’t good for a body to work all the days o’ the year, an’ it in’t right to expect it.”

“Of course we don’t expect it,” Clarice agreed, although she had in fact expected exactly that. “If you show me where to find everything and assist with the laundry, I’m sure that will be most satisfactory.”

Mrs. Wellbeloved looked more or less mollified. She produced a large key from her pocket, unlocked the door, and led the way in. “Just leave them boxes. Old Will and young Tom’ll bring ’em on up for yer.”

Clarice followed her, pleasantly surprised by the warmth of the house, even though the vicar had been gone for a couple of days. It smelled of lavender, beeswax, and the faint, earthy perfume of chrysanthemums. Everything looked clean: the wooden floor, the hall table, the doors leading off to left and right, the stairs going up toward a wide landing. There was a large vase of branches and leaves of gold and bronze on the floor. For all her lack of grace, Mrs. Wellbeloved seemed to be an excellent housekeeper.

“You’ll be liking it here,” she said more to Dominic than to Clarice. It sounded something of an order. “Folks know how to behave decent. Come to church reg’lar and give to the poor. Won’t be nothing for you to do but your duty. Just keep it right for the vicar to come back to. I’m sure he’s left you a list of them as needs visiting, but if he hasn’t, I can tell you.” She opened the sitting room door to show them a grace- ful room with a wide fireplace and bay window, and then closed the door again. “You’ll be takin’ all services reg’lar,” she went on, walking quickly toward the kitchen. “An’ you won’t be wantin’ the sexton, but if you do, he’s first on the right on the Glebe Road. Grave digger’s two down beyond.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Wellbeloved.” Dominic avoided meeting Clarice’s eyes and answered with as straight a face as he could manage.

“I’ll be in reg’lar for the heavy stuff, ’ceptin’ Christmas Day, an’ Boxin’ Day, o’ course,” Mrs. Wellbeloved continued. “You’ll have enough coal an’ coke an’ likely enough kindlin’, but if you haven’t you can go walk in the woods an’ pick up plenty. Works best of all, if you dry it proper first. An’ you’ll walk Harry, too. I can’t be doin’ that.”

“Harry?” Dominic asked, puzzled.

“Harry.” She looked at him witheringly. “The dog! Didn’t the vicar tell you about Harry? Retriever, he is. Good as gold, if you treat him right. An’ Etta. But you don’t need to do nothin’ for her, ’cept scraps and stuff, an’ milk. She’ll fend for herself.”

Clarice made a quick guess. “Etta’s a cat?”

Mrs. Wellbeloved looked appeased for their ignorance. “Right good little mouser, she is. Plain as you like, but clever. Capture ’em all in the end.” She said it with satisfaction, as if she identified with the animal and were in some oblique way describing herself as well.

Clarice could not help being amused. “I am sure we shall get along excellently. Thank you for showing us in. We shall have a cup of tea, and then unpack.”

“There’s everything you’ll need for today,” Mrs. Wellbeloved said, nodding. “Game pie in the pantry, an’ plenty o’ vegetables, such as there is this time o’ year. You’ll need onions. Vicar loved ’em. Hot onion soup best thing in the world for a cold, he said. Smells worse ’n whiskey, but at least you’re sober.” She gave Dominic a hard, level look.

He returned it unflinchingly, then slowly smiled.

Mrs. Wellbeloved grunted. A pink blush spread up her face, and she turned away. “Handsome is as handsome does,” she muttered under her breath.

Clarice thanked her again and saw her to the door. She was ready to be alone in her new temporary home and take stock of things. But first she wanted a cup of tea. It had been a long journey, and it was close to the shortest day in the year. Storm clouds were looming up over the trees, and the light was fading.

The house was everything she could have hoped. It had charm and individuality. The furniture was all well used, but also well cared for. Nothing really matched, as if each piece had been gathered as opportunity arose, and yet nothing appeared to be out of place. Oak, mahogany, and walnut jostled together, and age had mellowed them all. Elizabethan carving did not clash with Georgian simplicity. Everything seemed to be useful, except for one small table with barley-twist legs, which was apparently there simply because it was liked.

The pictures on the walls were also obviously personal choices: a watercolor of Bamburgh Castle on the Northumberland coast, rising out of the pale sands with the North Sea beyond; a Dutch scene of fish- ing boats; half a dozen pencil sketches of bare trees; more winter fields and trees in pen and ink. She found them remarkably restful; her eyes returned to them again and again. Upstairs she found another sketch, this time of the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey, bare columns and broken walls towering against the clouds.

“Look at this,” she called to Dominic, who was carrying the last case up to the box room. “Isn’t it lovely?”

He put the box away before coming to stand a little behind her, his arm around her shoulder. “Yes,” he agreed, examining the picture carefully. “I like it very much.” He peered at the signature. “It’s his own! Did you see that?”

“His own?” she asked.

“The bishop told me he painted,” he replied. “He didn’t say how good he was, though. That has both power and grace to it. At least I think so. I’m looking forward to meeting him when he comes back.”

She caught the edge of ruefulness in his voice. Those three weeks would go by too quickly, and then they would have to return to London, and the Reverend Spindlewood. Before that time he must somehow show that he was wise enough, gentle enough, and patient enough in listening to care for the village alone. He must be passionate and original in his sermons, not only to hold interest but also to feed the heart with the special message of Christmas. She knew this mattered to him intensely, and that his belief in himself wavered. Only the total upheaval of his life had made him consider religious faith at all.

Empty words of assurance from her would not help. He already knew she believed in him, and took it for granted that it was born of her love more than any realism.

“I wonder if he’ll do any more drawing while he’s away this time,” she said aloud. “I don’t even know where he’s gone.”


From the Hardcover edition.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    a reviewer

    Clarice and Dominic Corde are looking forward to reaching the tiny hamlet of Cottisham to take over as the temporary vicar because Reverend Wynster is taking a much needed vacation over the Christmas holiday. They are instantly charmed by the village and the vicarage which reflect a good, kind and godly man. The Cordes feel as if they have come home and returning to the church in London as a curate under the supervision of the meddlesome Reverend Spindlewood is going to be a big letdown.----------------------- The feeling of serenity ends when Clarice finds the vacationing vicar¿s family bible, and supplies and winter clothes, things he would want to take on a trip. When she goes to the cellar to get coal, she finds the body of Reverend Wynster. The doctor believes it was an accident but Clarice and Dominic find evidence that points to murder. Both believe the dead clergyman knew someone would kill to keep a secret but since they don¿t know the parishioners, they have to rely on instinct, hunches and listen to the meaning behind what certain people say.------------- Anne Perry has written an excellent mystery and a love story that focuses on a married couple who delight in each other¿s company. These are people who one would be proud to call friend because they are honest, dedicated and hardworking folks. A CHRISTMAS SECRET would make an excellent gift for Victorian cozy fans and readers who like the works of this author.----------- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 5, 2014

    This was a great light mystery, perfect for the Christmas season

    This was a great light mystery, perfect for the Christmas season when time is short. It has a great message for the season without being preachy. I found it to be very engaging and satisfying.

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  • Posted December 11, 2011

    Light-hearted Christmas Mystery

    This is the first Anne Perry novel I've ever read. I had heard she was an excellent writer, famous for her period mysteries. For several years, she has taken characters from those mystery novels and written Christmas mysteries. This one is #4 in the series. I normally will only read series in the order they are written, but all of these are stand alone novels, so it's ok to read them any order you wish.

    A Christmas Secret is a light, easy to read mystery. It stars the vicar Dominic Corde and his wife, Clarice, from the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series. All the characters in this book are full of life, each with their own personality quirks.

    I particularly enjoyed Clarice who, even though a female in the Victorian era, was a very strong lady and didn't rely on her husband for everything. She did her own part in looking for clues in solving the murder.

    This is a great Christmas book to pick up if you enjoy mysteries, historical fiction, and don't want anything too heavy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2006

    Lovely Festive Tale

    This is a lovely warming book with well rounded characters and a wonderful English village setting. A well written mystery / love story.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted April 25, 2011

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    Posted October 14, 2008

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    Posted November 8, 2010

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