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by Anne Perry
Ballantine, October 2011
244 pages
ISBN: 0345524632

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In the snowy days before Christmas, Joshua Fielding and his wife Caroline – Charlotte's mother from Anne Perry's Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series – have arrived with Joshua's theatrical troupe in Whitby, the Yorkshire fishing village where the fictional Dracula set foot. Here, the actors are to stay with the Netheridge family, whose daughter, Alice, has written a play based on the recently published novel by Bram Stoker.

The actors – temperamental and argumentative – have a difficult time working with the amateur script. But Joshua perseveres, fine-tuning and revising it. They receive unexpected help when a stranger arrives at the isolated country house, claiming his carriage was stranded in a now-raging snowstorm. He's tall, unnaturally pale and has a faint accent – mysterious, but also someone with a gift for theater. As the play finally coalesces with his help, there's a murder. Trapped by the snow, those inside the house can neither leave nor seek police help. Charlotte, realizing the killer is among them, begins to investigate on her own.

Although Dracula may seem a strange choice for a holiday play, Perry's deconstruction of the story is fascinating. It is, after all, all about goodness and evil. As Caroline says, "…we cannot have good without also the possibility of evil, so if there are angels, then there must be devils as well."

As with her previous Christmas novellas, A CHRISTMAS HOMECOMING carries a message – not just about goodness and evil, but about redemption and following one's heart. It's a message wrapped in a traditional British mystery. Fans of country house murders and things that go bump in the night will highly enjoy this one.

§ Lourdes Venard is a newspaper editor in Long Island, N.Y.

Reviewed by Lourdes Venard, November 2011

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