Silent Nights: Two Victorian Christmas Mysteries [NOOK Book]

Overview

Here are two holiday mysteries set in remote, snow-covered regions of Victorian Britain–where the nights are indeed silent but all is not calm, and where some will sleep in eternal peace.

A CHRISTMAS BEGINNING
While spending Christmas on the island of Anglesey off the coast of Wales, Superintendent Runcorn of Scotland Yard, a lonely bachelor, stumbles upon the lifeless body of the vicar’s younger sister in ...
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Silent Nights: Two Victorian Christmas Mysteries

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Overview

Here are two holiday mysteries set in remote, snow-covered regions of Victorian Britain–where the nights are indeed silent but all is not calm, and where some will sleep in eternal peace.

A CHRISTMAS BEGINNING
While spending Christmas on the island of Anglesey off the coast of Wales, Superintendent Runcorn of Scotland Yard, a lonely bachelor, stumbles upon the lifeless body of the vicar’s younger sister in the village churchyard. Everyone insists that only a stranger to the island could have committed the heinous crime, but the evidence proves otherwise. Intending to uncover the identity of the ruthless killer, Runcorn never dreams that the case may also, miraculously, open the door to a new future for himself.

A CHRISTMAS GRACE
With Christmas just around the corner, Thomas Pitt’s sister-in-law, Emily Radley, is suddenly called from London to be with her dying aunt on the western coast of Ireland. Emily soon discovers that painful memories of an unsolved murder haunt the lonely Irish town and sets out to unmask the culprit. When a lone shipwreck survivor washes up onshore, he brings with him not only the key to solving the terrible crime but the opportunity for the townspeople to make peace with the past–and with one another.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Inviting, comforting holiday fare.”—Washington Post

“[A] heartwarming, if crime-tinged, complement to the holiday season.”—Booklist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345517463
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/27/2009
  • Series: Christmas Mysteries Series
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 117,804
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Anne Perry
Anne Perry is the bestselling author of two acclaimed series set in Victorian England: the William Monk novels, including Dark Assassin and The Shifting Tide, and the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novels, including Buckingham Palace Gardens and Long Spoon Lane. She is also the 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 six holiday novels, most recently A Christmas Grace. Anne Perry lives in Scotland.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

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.
  • Read More Show Less
      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 Begining


    SO THIS WAS THE ISLE OF ANGLESEY. RUNCORN stood on the rugged headland and stared across the narrow water of the Menai Strait towards the mountains of Snowdonia and mainland Wales, and he wondered why on earth he had chosen to come here, alone in December. The air was hard, ice-edged, and laden with the salt of the sea. Runcorn was a Londoner, used to the rattle of hansom cabs on the cobbles, the gas lamps gleaming in the afternoon dusk.

     Every day he was surrounded by the sing-song voices of costermongers, the cries of news vendors, drivers of every kind of vehicle—broughams to drays—and the air carried the smell of smoke and manure. This isolated island must be the loneliest place in Britain, all bare hills and hard, bright water, and silence except for the moan of the wind in the grass.

     The black skeleton of the Menai Bridge had a certain grace, but it was a cold elegance, not the low, familiar arches across the Thames. The few lights flickering on in the town of Beaumaris behind him indicated nothing like the vast city he was used to, teeming with the passions, the sorrow, and the dreams of millions. Of course the reason he was here was simple. Runcorn had nowhere else in particular to be for Christmas, no family. He lived alone. He knew many people, but they were colleagues rather than friends. He had earned his promotions until he was now, at fifty, a senior superintendent in the Metropolitan Police, separated by office from those he had once worked beside. But he was not a gentleman, like those of his own rank. He had not the polish, the confidence, the ease of speech and grace of movement that comes with not having to care what people thought of you. 

    He smiled to himself as the wind stung his face. Monk, his colleague many years ago, one of his few friends, had not been born a gentleman either, but somehow he had always managed to seem like one. That used to hurt, but it did not anymore. He knew that Monk was human too, and vulnerable. He could make mistakes. And perhaps Runcorn himself was wiser. 

    The last case in which they had worked together had been difficult and in the end ugly. Now Runcorn was tired of the city and he was due several weeks of leave. Why not take it somewhere as different as possible? He would refresh his mind away from the familiar and predictable, take long walks in the open, think deeply for a change. 

    The sun was sinking in the southwest, shedding brilliant, burning light over the water. The land was dark as the color faded and the headlands jutted purple and black out of the sea. Only the uplands, ribbed pale like crumpled velvet, still caught the last rays of light. 

    How long was winter twilight here? Would he soon find himself lost, unable to see the way back to his lodgings? It was bitterly cold already. His feet were numb from standing. Turning, he started to walk towards the east and the darkening sky. What was there to think about? He was good at his job, patient, possibly a little pedestrian. He never had flashes of brilliant intuition, but he got where he needed to. He had succeeded far more than any of the other young men who had started when he had. In fact, his own success had surprised him. 

    But was he happy? 

    That was a stupid question, as if happiness were something you could own and have for always. He was happy at times, as for example when a case was closed and he knew he had done it well, found a difficult truth and left no doubts to haunt him afterwards, no savage and half-answered questions. 

    He was happy when he sat down by the fire at the end of a long day, took the weight off his feet, and ate something really good, like a thick-crusted ham-andegg pie, or hot sausages with mashed potatoes. He liked good music, even classical music sometimes, although he would not admit it, in case people thought he was putting on airs. And he liked dogs. A good dog always made him smile. Was that enough? He could only just see the road at his feet now. He thought about the huge bridge behind him, spanning the whole surge and power of the sea. What about the man who built that? Had he been happy? He had certainly created something to marvel at, and changed the lives of people far into the future. 

    Runcorn had untangled a few problems, but had he ever built anything, or did he always use other people’s bridges? Where did he go, anyway? No more than home to bed. Tonight it was to be an unfamiliar lodging house. It was comfortable. He would sleep well, he usually did. Certainly it was warm enough, and Mrs. Owen was an agreeable woman, generous in nature. 

    The next morning was sharp and cold, but a pale sun struggled over the horizon, milky soft through a fine veil of cloud, which Mrs. Owen assured him would burn off soon. The frost was only a dusting of white here and there, enough to make the hollows stand out on the long, uneven lawn stretching down to the big yew tree. 

    Runcorn ate a hearty breakfast, talked with Mrs. Owen for a little while because it was only civil to appear interested as she told him about some of the local places and customs. Afterwards he set out to walk again. 

    This time he headed uphill, climbing steadily until nearly midday when he turned and gazed out at a cloudless sky, and a sea shimmering unbroken into the distance. 

    He stood there for some time, lost in the enormity of it, then gradually descended. He was on the outskirts of Beaumaris again when he turned a corner in the road and came face-to-face with a tall, slender man of unusual elegance, even in his heavy, winter coat and hat. He was in his mid-thirties, handsome, clean-shaven. They both stopped, staring at each other. The man blinked, uncertain except recognizing Runcorn’s face as familiar. 

    Runcorn knew him instantly, as if it had been only a week ago they had met. But it was longer than that, much longer. It had been a case of suicide suspected to be a murder. John Barclay had lived in a house backing onto the mews where the body had been found. It was not Barclay whom Runcorn remembered; it was his widowed sister, Melisande Ewart. Even standing here in the middle of this bright, windy road, Runcorn could see her face as clearly as if it were she who were here now, not her arrogant, unhelpful brother.  

    “Excuse me,” Barclay said tensely, stepping around Runcorn as if they had been strangers and walking on up the road, lengthening his stride. But Runcorn had seen the recognition in his face, and the distaste. 

    Was Melisande here too? If she was, he might see her, or at least catch a glimpse. Did she still look the same? Was the curve of her hair as soft? The way she smiled and the sadness in her had continued to haunt him in the year since they’d last met. 

    It was ridiculous for him to think of her still. If she remembered him at all, it would be as a policeman determined to do his job regardless of fear or favor, but with possibly a modicum of kindness. It was her courage, her defiance of her brother Barclay in identifying the corpse and taking the witness stand, that had closed the case. He had always wondered how much that had cost her afterwards in Barclay’s displeasure. There had been nothing he could do to help. 

    He began walking again, around the bend in the road and past the first house of the village. Was she staying here also? He quickened his step without realizing it. The sun was bright, the frost nothing more than sparkling drops in the grass. 

    How could he find out if she was here, without being overeager? He could hardly ask, as if they were social acquaintances. He was a policeman who had investigated a death. It would be pointless to see her, and much too painful. Chastising himself, he thought what a fool he was to have even thought about it. 

    He hurried on towards his lodgings, the safety of Mrs. Owen’s dining room table and the cheerful conversation of strangers. 


    From the Trade Paperback edition.
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    Customer Reviews

    Average Rating 4.5
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    Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
    • Posted March 2, 2010

      Excellent, just too short!

      I especially liked the story that was about Gracie and was SO sorry it ended. That's my only complaint - too short!

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted January 11, 2010

      Anne Perry - A Christmas Promise

      This is great reading for Anne Perry fans as well as those of us who enjoy reading Christmas books each December. I enjoyed it very much.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted December 19, 2009

      I Also Recommend:

      Anne Perry's Silent Nights gives two gifts: two Victorian Christmas Mysteries. Both are excellent!

      Anne Perry's Silent Nights contains two Victorian Christmas Mysteries both of each are excellent. I've read all her series in order of publication. These two novels present characters from previous series that were not the main characters, but interesting just the same. I welcomed learning more about them.

      A Christmas Beginning focuses on Monk's boss, Superintendent Runcorn. We got a glimpse of his humanity in the Monk series but he becomes alive here. As always, Perry makes the reader feel that he/she is living in Victorian England. The plot is magnificent.

      A Christmas Grace is similar in that it focuses on another sub-character of the Monk series, his sister-in-law Emily Radley. In the series we got to know her rather well but this novel brings her very much to life. The plot twists are wonderful.

      It's impossible to put either of these novels down once you start. You will feel that you are living in that time and place and will be compelled to follow the twists and turns in these.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted November 28, 2013

      excellent as always

      excellent as always

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