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by Anne Perry
Headline, November 2006
144 pages
14.99 GBP
ISBN: 0755334280

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

The opening chapters of A CHRISTMAS SECRET read more like a holiday romance than a mystery, with the Reverend Corde and Clarissa Corde fussing over their situation and thinking about how much they adore each other. He is worried about proving his worth as temporary vicar of Cottisham and proving his love for his wife, while his wife worries about being a credit to him in the community and proving her unwavering love for him.

Reverend Wynter was, by all reports, a beloved and conscientious cleric, so it was surprising that he suddenly left on a vacation right before Christmas, 1890. The Cordes were sent to fill the gap, their general insecurity made worse by discovering how much the village people trusted and relied on Wynter.

The reader had better be more interested in atmosphere than action, as the body wonít turn up until almost halfway through the book, while the notion of murder takes even longer Ė and even then, Corde spends almost more time worrying about what heíll say in his Christmas sermon than solving the crime.

After several days, Clarice Corde finds Wynterís body in the coal cellar, his head smashed in. This, plus the newly-wed nature of the Cordes and the unusual name of the attitudinal woman who occasionally helps with housekeeping put me strongly in mind of Sayersí BUSMANíS HONEYMOON. Itís not the same mystery, motive, or means, but I couldnít shake the parallel.

The local doctor is quick to call it an accident and ask the Cordes not to discuss it, but they do and start an unofficial investigation of their own. It doesnít take long until they start finding out the dirty secrets lying under the postcard-perfect surface of that small English village.

This isnít the first adventure of the Cordes, although if you havenít read the previous one you wonít have to now Ė during one of the Reverendís reveries, Perry clumsily gives away both plot and perpetrator of the previous story. Between that huge fumble, the snailís pacing, and the lack of enough clues for the reader to solve the crime, A CHRISTMAS SECRET is only for people who want an utterly undemanding holiday read.

Reviewed by Linnea Dodson, December 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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