Top critical review
on 20 March 2010
Hinted at bad things have turned Mariah Ellison into a cranky old woman who is put up with rather than liked by her relatives. With her usual hosts deciding to visit France for Christmas, the crotchety Mariah is dumped at her daughters. She is joined there by another exile from a family, Maude, a woman who has indecorously spent forty years abroad. In spite of herself, Mariah takes a shine to this stranger. When Maude is found dead, apparently of heart failure, Mariah suspects she was murdered. Is the answer to be found with the dead woman's family?
This is the latest in a series of detective novellas set around Christmas. You don't get a lot for your money - this is only about 30,000 words - but on the plus side what you do get is superb characterisation and excellent period feel. The snobbery, pretension and strait-laced rules of Victorian society are beautifully illustrated in a most clear and pleasing way. This is not my usual kind of historical novel, but I found this a real page-turner. Unfortunately, the actual resolution of the plot at the end is very disappointing, and Mariah's conversion to Christmas cheer doesn't convince. Still, there are worse ways to spend a holiday than reading this!