A Christmas Return

A Christmas Return

by Anne Perry

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780425285077
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/07/2017
Series: Christmas Mysteries Series , #15
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 125,042
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.40(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Anne Perry is the bestselling author of fourteen previous holiday novels, as well as the William Monk series and the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series set in Victorian England, five World War I novels, and a work of historical fiction, The Sheen on the Silk. Anne Perry lives in Los Angeles and Scotland.

Hometown:

Portmahomack, Ross-shire, U.K

Date of Birth:

October 28, 1938

Place of Birth:

Blackheath, London England

Read an Excerpt

Christmas was just over a week away. Should Mariah Ellison bother the servants to put up some decorations in her rooms? No one else would see them, unless somebody paid her a call out of a sense of duty. Everybody in the family seemed to be away this Christmas, and Mariah was destined to be alone again. She forced from her mind the thought that it might be largely her own fault. She had been, to put it as kindly as possible, a trifle difficult. She had no doubt that, behind her back, it was put in harsher words.

Mariah had left her recent change of heart for rather late in life. She refused to count years, and had done for some time. In fact, she had stopped rather before eighty. That was more than old enough for any woman. If she had had any sense, she would have stopped at seventy! She knew many women who had. Queen Victoria was in her seventies, but then she could hardly be discreet about that! In fact, being Queen of a quarter of the world gave her very little discretion about anything at all, something for which Mariah did not envy her.

Being no one of any note allowed Mariah all the discretion she could wish for, and more.

She stood up and walked to the outer door of her rooms, and all the way to the front hallway of the main house. It was very grand, very beautiful. It belonged to her younger granddaughter, Emily, who had married extraordinarily well with her first husband, in fact above herself, in Mariah’s opinion. But to be fair, Emily had made Mariah reasonably welcome, and she lacked nothing in the way of comfort. Since last Christmas, and her unusual adventure in Romney Marsh, when she had been obliged to stay with her daughter-­in-­law, Caroline, and Caroline’s new husband, Mariah had appreciated a lot of things more than she had done in the past.

Emily had good taste, and since her first husband had died and left her rich, she had the means to exercise it. Mariah had always been satisfactorily cared for, but not on this scale.

The floor was pale marble, but a warm color, richly veined. The broad staircase swept down from an upper balcony, its wooden banister polished to a sheen, its newel post a work of art. Three blazing chandeliers hung from the high ceiling. The walls were decorated with paintings of aristocrats from earlier centuries. In Mariah’s opinion it was a good place to put them, far better than in one of the rooms where people actually spent time, and would be obliged to look at them.

Although the family was away, there was still a good deal of decoration around: holly with bright berries, red and gold ribbons, colored candles, and in the corner of the hall a beautifully decorated Christmas tree.

She was admiring the charming details when there was a quiet cough behind her.

She turned to see the butler standing a few yards away.

“Excuse me, ma’am, but there is rather a large parcel for you. Or rather, medium-­sized, but extremely heavy. Would you care for me to carry it to your rooms?” he offered.

“Thank you,” she accepted. Usually she carried a stick to assist her in walking. She had done so for years. It was not really necessary, but it was useful at times. It felt like a weapon, more of an attitude than any real service. She was perfectly steady on her feet, but it was good for leaning on now and then, and certainly for poking things, or people. The implication that she needed assistance made Emily’s servants more attentive toward her.

“Yes, indeed!” she went on.

The butler picked up the parcel, which seemed to require some effort. He carried it carefully across the hall toward the door to Mariah’s quarters.

She had hoped there might be a letter for her, or better still, a Christmas card, but her disappointment was almost swallowed up by her curiosity as to what this heavy parcel might contain.

She walked behind him, out of the hall and along the passage to her own sitting room, where he set the parcel down on the table.

“Would you care for me to open it, Mrs. Ellison?” he asked. It did look particularly well sealed and was tied with several rounds of string.

“Yes, please.” Her hands were a little arthritic; she was bound to be far slower than he, and by now she could hardly wait to know what was inside all this paper and string.

The butler produced a small penknife from his pocket and opened it to cut through the string, then the paper.

She watched him with fascination. There seemed to be layers and layers of strong, brown paper around whatever it was. But finally the last layer was undone and they both stood staring at a round, dark brown Christmas pudding. It was ordinary, totally traditional, with a flattened leaf of holly on the top. She could smell the richness of it, now that the wrapping was off.

“Very nice, ma’am,” the butler said, looking at the pudding, then up at her. “I’m just surprised at how heavy it felt. Would you like me to take it to the kitchen, ma’am? You’ll be wanting to keep it until the day.”

She frowned. Who on earth would send her a Christmas pudding? There must be a note somewhere. She stepped forward to lift the pudding.

“Good gracious!” she exclaimed. “It feels like lead. What on earth have they put in it?”

“Indeed it does, ma’am,” he agreed.

Curiosity overwhelmed her. She went to the sideboard drawer and took out a knife. She poked the pudding and, within an inch or less, met with total resistance.

“May I help, Mrs. Ellison?” the butler offered.

She did not need a butler’s help to cut a Christmas pudding. She jabbed the knife hard and achieved nothing at all. Whatever was blocking it was absolutely solid.

Very gently he took the knife from her and tried his own hand at it. He also got no farther than the first inch. He stopped, uncertain what he should do.

Mariah reached out, took the knife from him, and determinedly cut a couple of inches away from the original place. She met with the same resistance, and started to knock the pudding off, away from whatever the obstruction was.

The butler stared in amazement as she slowly uncovered a totally spherical ball of lead, about seven or eight inches in diameter.

“What on earth is that?” he asked.

Mariah felt a sudden chill of memory, indistinct, just sadness, and fear. It was absurd.

“It looks like a cannonball,” she said a little tartly. “Except it is too small to be a real one.” She poked at it again, and then pushed to see if it would roll. It was solid, and too heavy to do more without a considerable effort behind the push.

“Is it one of those ornamental ones?” the servant asked, staring at it, his face creased with puzzlement.

Inside her mind the memory was suddenly complete. That is exactly what it was: an ornamental cannonball, made of lead just as the real ones were. No wonder it was extraordinarily heavy. She stared at it as if mesmerized, while waves of the past engulfed her like a cold sea.

“Are you all right, Mrs. Ellison?” he said with concern. “Would you like to sit down? I’ll take this away and fetch you a cup of tea.”

“No!” she said quickly. Then, remembering the new person she had determined to be, she added, “Thank you. You might look to see if there is any note with it, even on the outside wrapping. I believe I know where it came from, but I would like to be certain.”

“Yes, of course, ma’am.” Obediently he picked up all the pieces of paper and examined them on both sides, putting them in a neat pile when he had finished. He kept one in his hands.

“Well, don’t stand here!” Her voice was tight in her throat. “What does it say?”

“It’s just the postmark of where it’s from, ma’am. There’s no more.”

She gulped. Her throat was dry. It was twenty years ago now, almost exactly.

“Haslemere?” she asked.

His eyes widened. “Yes, ma’am, that’s exactly what it says.”

“Thank you. You . . .” She looked at his pale face, so stiff, so earnest. “You may take it to the kitchen. Perhaps you would have someone remove the bit of pudding from the outside. If it is edible, you are welcome to it. And have the cannonball put in the garden shed, if you please.”

“Yes, ma’am. Will there be anything more?”

Customer Reviews

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A Christmas Return: A Novel 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
iiiireader More than 1 year ago
This is the first story I have read by Anne Perry but it will certainly not be the last. I am guessing from the tone of the book that the protagonist, Mariah Ellison, plays a part in other books in Ms. Perry's various series. That alone is enough to have me go seek those books out to read them. I found that the book was very easy to read as a stand-alone but would probably flow even better if a reader has more background on this character. Mariah is an 80 something rather plain but fiercely protective individual. She has experienced much in her life and is determined to protect the memory of a deceased friend as well as the welfare of his remaining family members. When she is called on to assist those individuals at Christmas time, she doesn't hesitate though it brings up many memories that are hard for her to recall. While the whodunnit is not so much a question in this book, the story is more about character both in the past and in the present. I'll be looking forward to reading more about Harriet and her various family members in the future. I was provided a digital advance reader copy of this book by the publisher via Netgalley.
Cynthia181 More than 1 year ago
I won a copy of this book from Goodreads. I am not required to give a favorable review. This was a very interesting read. I have read other books from Anne and found it one has just enough intrigue in them to make you try to figure out the truth in the whole story. This one brings people from books past to help each other. And to right 3 wrongs that happened over a 25 year period and the holidays brings it all to a wonderful end
joyful334209 More than 1 year ago
Christmas return is an amazing book it is hair standing, mind clattering, curiosity building, spine tingling, toe curling, eye widening, Victorian sleuthing, historical telling, mind blowing story – yeah I said it Victorian sleuthing because that is what it is all about Grandma is solving an unsolved case – then Mariah is pulled in as well when a gift is left for her – so she gets into it – solving mysteries - on doing that she meets the grandson of the subject and that is when Sparks fly . Will she figure this out? What is grandma's doing? Will she take care of everything? Or will the grandson and Mariah figure everything out ? I received a copy of this book from the Publisher and Netgalley; all the opinions expressed in this review are all my own.
joyful334209 More than 1 year ago
Christmas return is an amazing book it is hair standing, mind clattering, curiosity building, spine tingling, toe curling, eye widening, Victorian sleuthing, historical telling, mind blowing story – yeah I said it Victorian sleuthing because that is what it is all about Grandma is solving an unsolved case – then Mariah is pulled in as well when a gift is left for her – so she gets into it – solving mysteries - on doing that she meets the grandson of the subject and that is when Sparks fly . Will she figure this out? What is grandma's doing? Will she take care of everything? Or will the grandson and Mariah figure everything out ? I received a copy of this book from the Publisher and Netgalley; all the opinions expressed in this review are all my own.
joyful334209 More than 1 year ago
Christmas return is an amazing book it is hair standing, mind clattering, curiosity building, spine tingling, toe curling, eye widening, Victorian sleuthing, historical telling, mind blowing story – yeah I said it Victorian sleuthing because that is what it is all about Grandma is solving an unsolved case – then Mariah is pulled in as well when a gift is left for her – so she gets into it – solving mysteries - on doing that she meets the grandson of the subject and that is when Sparks fly . Will she figure this out? What is grandma's doing? Will she take care of everything? Or will the grandson and Mariah figure everything out ? I received a copy of this book from the Publisher and Netgalley; all the opinions expressed in this review are all my own.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Even if you haven't read her other books , this story touches your heart. She builds her characters so you can almost see them as neighbors and friends.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anne Perry once again strikes the right note of redemption and hope at Christmas. Fans of her Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novels will remember Mariah, Charlotte’s grandmother, very well, and not always fondly. But redemption wins the day and allows Mariah Ellison to experience the hope that Christmas brings. The hope that the past can be faced and old hurts and evils can be resolved with one being the stronger for it. Thus, the perfect Christmas story with all the warmth of redemption and friendship brought forward at Christmas.