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Anne Perry Christmas Mysteries
Born in Blackheath, London, the daughter of physicist Dr Henry Rainsford Hulme, Perry was diagnosed with tuberculosis as a child and sent to the Caribbean and South Africa in hopes that a warmer climate would improve her health. She rejoined her family when she was 13 after her father took a position as Rector of Canterbury University College in New Zealand. She attended Christchurch Girls’ High School, located in what became the Cranmer Centre
Murder and trial
Main article: Parker–Hulme murder case
In June 1954, at the age of 15, Hulme and her best friend Pauline Parker murdered Parker’s mother, Honorah Rieper. Hulme’s parents were in the process of separating and she was supposed to go to South Africa to stay with a relative. The two teenage friends, who had created a rich fantasy life together populated with famous actors such as James Mason and Orson Welles, did not want to be separated.
On 22 June 1954, the girls and Honora Rieper went for a walk in Victoria Park in their hometown of Christchurch. On an isolated path Hulme dropped an ornamental stone so that Rieper would lean over to retrieve it. Parker had planned to hit her mother with half a brick wrapped in a stocking. The girls presumed that one blow would kill her but it took more than 20.
Parker and Hulme stood trial in Christchurch in 1954 and were found guilty on 29 August that year. As they were too young to be considered for the death penalty under New Zealand law at the time, they were convicted and sentenced to be “detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure”. In practice they were detained at the discretion of the Minister of Justice. They were released separately five years later.
Parker and Hulme are not believed to have had any contact since the trial.
The events formed the basis for the 1994 film Heavenly Creatures, in which Melanie Lynskey portrayed a teenage Pauline Parker and Kate Winslet the teenaged Juliet Hulme. At the time of the film’s release, it was not generally known that mystery author “Anne Perry” was the grown-up Juliet Hulme whose identity was made public some months after the film’s release. Although some presumed Hulme and Parker’s relationship to be sexual, Perry stated in 2006 that, while the relationship was obsessive, the two “were never lesbians”.
After being released from prison, Hulme returned to England and became a flight attendant. For a period she lived in the United States, where she joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1968. She later settled in the Scottish village of Portmahomack where she lived with her mother. Her father had a distinguished scientific career, heading the British hydrogen bomb programme.
Hulme took the name Anne Perry, using her stepfather’s surname. Her first novel, The Cater Street Hangman, was published under this name in 1979. Her works generally fall into one of several categories of genre fiction, including historical murder mysteries and detective fiction. Many feature recurring characters, most importantly Thomas Pitt, who appeared in her first novel, and amnesiac private investigator William Monk, who first appeared in her 1990 novel The Face of a Stranger. By 2003 she had published 47 novels, and several collections of short stories. Her story “Heroes”, which first appeared in the 1999 anthology Murder and Obsession, edited by Otto Penzler, won the 2001 Edgar Award for Best Short Story.
In 2005, Perry appeared on the Trisha show to discuss the crime on a special themed show. A 2009 documentary film “Anne Perry Interiors” gave a snapshot of her life and the people close to her.
The Christmas Stories
Note: A Christmas tragedy!
Lady Vespasia Cumming-Gould–one of the most memorable characters from the Thomas Pitt series–who appears here as a lively young woman, the ultimate aristocrat who can trace her blood to half the royal houses of Europe.
It’s Christmas and the Berkshire countryside lies wrapped in winter chill. But the well-born guests who have gathered at Applecross for a delicious weekend of innocent intrigue and passionate romance are warmed by roaring fires and candlelight, holly and mistletoe, good wine and gorgeously wrapped gifts. It’s scarcely the setting for misfortune, and no one–not even that clever young aristocrat and budding sleuth Vespasia Cumming-Gould–anticipates the tragedy that is to darken this light-hearted holiday house party. But soon one young woman lies dead, a suicide, and another is ostracized, held partly responsible for the shocking turn of events.
To expiate her guilt, Gwendolen Kilmuir sets out for the Scottish Highlands, hoping to explain to the dead girl’s mother the circumstances surrounding the sorrowful act – and to bring her back to England for the funeral. Gwendolen’s sole companion on this nightmarish journey is Vespasia. As Vespasia learns more about the victim and the ugly forces that shaped her desperate deed, she understands the heartbreaking truth of the tragedy.
Note: Whispers of Murder?
The Dreghorn family is gathering for an anticipated reunion in the Lake District of England. The blissful tranquility of the snowbound estate, however, is soon shattered by what appears to be an accidental death. The victim’s distraught wife, Antonia, summons her godfather, distinguished mathematician and inventor Henry Rathbone – one of the most beloved characters from Perry’s bestselling William Monk series. But questions about the tragic event turn into whispers of murder, sending shock waves among members of the Dreghorn clan, who haven’t seen each other in ten years.
Now Rathbone must put his analytical and creative capacities to the test as he assumes the role of an amateur investigator. But while searching for clues and mulling over potential motives, he cannot help but wonder: Will another poor soul meet the same untimely end – and be silenced like the night?
In this Christmas novella, featuring a colorful, somewhat eccentric cast of characters and an irresistible plot as twisty as a ribbon, Rathbone rescues the holiday with a grace that would impress William Monk himself.
Note: Murder in the Romney Marshes!
In A Christmas Guest, Mariah Ellison, better known as the vinegar-tongued Grandmama from the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series, makes a stunning appearance in a bracing story full of devious delight . . . and certain death.
For Grandmama Ellison, Christmas is no reason to celebrate. And when her daughter and son-in-law plan a Christmas vacation to Paris sans hers truly, the cantankerous Grandmama is forced to stay elsewhere – and travels to the chilly, windswept Romney Marshes to spend the holiday with Charlotte Pitt’s parents, Caroline and Joshua Fielding.
Grandmama is immediately miserable. For starters, Christmas with the Fieldings is nothing like the cultured life to which she’s accustomed, and the Romney Marshes are unbearably provincial. When Joshua’s cousin Maude Barrington arrives, Grandmama is at her wit’s end. Although Maude is well traveled and friendly, Grandmama thinks she’s improper and strange. But when Maude is found lifeless in bed, Grandmama senses foul play and takes it upon herself to assume the role of amateur detective –uncovering not only the truth about Maude Barrington but some startling truths about herself as well.
Note: Christmas surprises?
Dominic Corde is thrilled to “fill the robe” as substitute vicar in the village of Cottisham, while the Reverend Wynter is away on a three-week Christmas holiday. Glad to escape his dreary London flat and a less-than-satisfying job as church curate, Dominic and his beloved wife, Clarice, set off for what they hope will be a lovely winter getaway.
Upon arrival, in the midst of a frigid, exceptionally snowy season, Dominic and Clarice are welcomed by warm, hospitable neighbors and enchanted by the cozy, inviting vicarage. Everything seems almost too perfect. Dominic’s only concern is how he will be received by the congregation, who hold the Reverend Wynter in such high regard. But as Clarice soon discovers, she and Dominic have much more dire matters to worry about. It turns out that the Reverend Wynter isn’t on holiday at all – and that something very sinister has transpired.
As a blizzard leaves Cottisham treacherously snowbound and the isolated village swirls with unsavory secrets, Dominic and Clarice suddenly find themselves in deadly danger.
Note: A body in a churchyard leads
Superintendent Runcorn of Scotland Yard is spending Christmas on the wild and beautiful island of Anglesey off the north coast of Wales. On one of his solitary strolls, the lonely bachelor stumbles upon a lifeless body in the village churchyard. The unfortunate victim is quickly identified as Olivia Costain, the local vicar’s younger sister.
In life, Olivia had been a free spirit, full of charm and grace. For Runcorn, she is a haunting reminder of Melisande Ewart, the one woman he’s never been able to forget. Everyone on Anglesey is quick to insist that only a stranger to the island could have committed the heinous crime. But the evidence proves otherwise, and the unpopular work of discovering who among Olivia’s friends and neighbours – and numerous eligible suitors–is a ruthless killer falls to Runcorn. A plebian outsider in the drawing rooms of the snobbish local gentry, Runcorn never dreams that the key that will unlock the secrets of Olivia’s life and death may also, miraculously, open the door to a new future for himself.
Note: A Yuletide killer?
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. Leaving her husband and two children behind, Emily makes the long journey to an all-but-forgotten town in the county of Connemara, on the western coast of Ireland. She soon discovers that a tragic legacy haunts the once closeknit community.
Violent storms ravage the coast and keep alive painful memories of an unsolved murder and unsettling fears that a killer may still live among the residents of the lonely Irish town. Determined to lighten her aunt’s heart and help the troubled community, Emily 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.
Note: A Christmas adventure for two children!
Three days before Christmas, in the freezing slums of London’s East End, thirteen-year-old Gracie Phipps encounters Minnie Maude Mudway, who is only eight, alone, and determined to find her friend Charlie.
However Charlie is no ordinary companion: He is a donkey who belonged to Minnie Maude’s Uncle Alf. Gracie is shocked to learn that only the day before, someone brutally murdered Uncle Alf and made off with his rag-and-bones cart and the beloved beast who pulled it. Now, come hell or high water, Minnie Maude means to rescue Charlie – and Gracie decides to help. But the path that Uncle Alf had taken to his death was not his regular route, and in his cart were not just the usual bits of worn silver and china but also, the children are told, a dazzling golden box. What its contents may have been no one can say, for, like Charlie and the cart, it too has vanished.
Uncertain where their four-legged friend may be, the children are drawn into an adult world far beyond their innocent imaginings. And in a shop gleaming with beautiful objects, they recruit an unexpected ally: Mr. Balthasar, who warns them that the shining prize may be a Pandora’s box of evil.
Set in the Victorian world where Anne Perry reigns supreme, A Christmas Promise culminates in a radiant finale that will remain with you long after the final page is turned
Note: A dark Christmas journey!
Ten days before Christmas, as an icy wind cuts through London, wealthy James Wentworth feels not joy but grief. His reckless son, Lucien, has been lured into a deadly world of drugs and wild passion. Wentworth’s only hope, he believes, is his old friend Henry Rathbone, who volunteers to search for the prodigal son. Rathbone knows nothing of the sensation-obsessed underworld where Lucien now dwells, but he acquires two unexpected new companions who do: Squeaky Robinson, a reformed brothel-keeper who now works in Hester Monk’s medical clinic, and Crow, a mysterious slum doctor who turns no one away, however undeserving.
Slowly this odd trio gathers clues – about Lucien’s mad infatuation with a beautiful woman named Sadie, and about Shadwell, the ruthless man who owns her and, like the Devil, never lets go of one of his own. Rathbone, Squeaky, and Crow even welcome into their little band a most valuable recruit: young Bessie, a teenager whose courage holds fast even in the depths of the slum. And so they set forth on their odyssey into London’s dark streets, on a mission whose outcome they cannot begin to guess.
Anne Perry’s novels are supreme masterpieces of suspense, and A Christmas Odyssey ranks with the very best. The days leading up to Christmas may prove to be fraught with challenges, but ’tis the season for comfort and joy and miracles.
Note: Dracula makes a Christmas appearance?
In A Christmas Homecoming, a familiar face from the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novels—Charlotte’s mother, Caroline—travels with her young husband, Joshua Fielding, and his theatrical troupe to Whitby, the Yorkshire fishing village where Dracula the vampire first touched English soil in the sensational novel named after him. Joshua has arranged to produce a stage adaptation of Dracula by the daughter of Whitby millionaire Charles Netheridge during the Christmas holiday, but after the disastrous first read-through of her amateurish script, only the fact that the company is depending on Netheridge’s financial backing for their spring tour keeps them at work.
As tempers flare and wind and snow swirl around Netheridge’s lonely hilltop mansion, a black-cloaked stranger emerges from the storm—an eerily opportune arrival, for this enigmatic figure, one Anton Ballin, turns out to be a theatrical genius. At the same time, a brooding evil makes itself felt. Instead of the theatrical triumph that Netheridge desired for his daughter, there is murder—shocking and terrifying.
Anne Perry’s ninth Christmas novel keeps us poised on a razor’s edge of suspense, hypnotized by a story in which the heartwarming power of goodness is challenged by the seductive power of inner darkness. In the end, A Christmas Homecoming lifts the spirit and rejoices the heart
Note: A Christmas garland saves an innocent man!
The year is 1857, soon after the violent Siege of Cawnpore, with India in the midst of rebellion. In the British garrison, a guard is killed and an Indian prisoner escapes, which leads to yet more British deaths. Cries for revenge are overwhelming. Despite no witnesses and no evidence against him, a luckless British medical orderly named John Tallis is arrested as an accomplice simply because he was the only soldier unaccounted for when these baffling crimes were committed.
Though chosen to defend Tallis, young Lieutenant Victor Narraway is not encouraged to try very hard. Narraway’s superiors merely want a show trial. But inspired by a soldier’s widow and her children, and by his own stubborn faith in justice, Narraway searches for the truth. In an alien world haunted by memories of massacre, he is the accused man’s only hope.
The trial of John Tallis equals the white-knuckle best of Anne Perry’s breathtaking courtroom dramas. And thanks to a simple Christmas garland and some brilliant detective work, Narraway perseveres against appalling odds, learning how to find hope within himself—and turn the darkest hour into one full of joy and light.
Note: A glimmer of hope?
Although she lacks for nothing, Claudine Burroughs dreads the holiday season for forcing her to face how empty her life has become. She no longer expects closeness with her coldly ambitious husband, and she has nothing in common with their circle of wealthy, status-minded friends. The only time she is remotely happy is when she volunteers at a woman’s clinic – a job her husband strongly disapproves of. Then, at a glittering yuletide gala, she meets the charming poet Dai Tregarron and finds her spirits lifted. But scarcely an hour later, the charismatic Dai is enmeshed in a nightmare – accused of killing a young streetwalker who had been smuggled into the party.
Even though she suspects that an upper-class clique is quickly closing ranks to protect the real killer, Claudine vows to do her utmost for Dai. But it seems that hypocritical London society would rather send an innocent poet to the gallows than expose the shocking truth about one of their own.
Nevertheless, it’s the season of miracles and Claudine finally sees a glimmer of hope – not only for Dai but for a young woman she befriends who is teetering on the brink of a lifetime of unhappiness. Anne Perry’s heartwarming new holiday novel is a celebration of courage, faith, and love for all seasons.
Note: Christmas in Hell’s Kitchen!
The year is 1904. Twenty-three-year-old Jemima Pitt, the daughter of Thomas Pitt, head of Britain’s Special Branch, is crossing the Atlantic. She is traveling with an acquaintance, Delphinia Cardew, who is to marry the aristocratic Brent Albright in a high-society New York wedding – a grand affair that will join together two fabulously wealthy families, titans of the international financial world.
But Jemima senses a mysterious shadow darkening the occasion. Missing from the festivities is Delphinia’s mother, Maria, who is marked by disgrace. Nearly sixteen years ago, Maria abandoned young Delphinia and disappeared – and now the Albrights refuse to mention her name. But when Harley, the groom’s charismatic brother, asks Jemima to help him search for Maria and forestall the scandal that would surely follow if the prodigal parent turned up at the wedding, she agrees to assist him.
From Hell’s Kitchen to Fifth Avenue, the Lower East Side to Central Park, Jemima trudges through strange, snowy streets, asking questions but getting few answers – and never suspecting that she is walking into mortal danger, from which not even a handsome young police officer named Patrick Flannery may be able to protect her.
Note: No cure for depression?
Lonely Charles Latterly arrives at his small hotel hoping that the island’s blue skies and gentle breezes will brighten his spirits. Unfortunately, there’s no holiday cheer to be found among his fellow guests, who include a pompous novelist, a stuffy colonel, a dangerously ill-matched married couple, and an ailing old man. The one charming exception is orphaned teenager Candace Finbar, who takes Charles under her wing and introduces him to the island’s beauty. But the tranquility of the holiday is swiftly disrupted by a violent quarrel, an unpleasant gentleman’s shocking claims of being stalked, and the ominous stirrings of the local volcano. Then events take an even darker turn: A body is found, and Charles quickly realizes that the killer must be among the group of guests.
Captivating in its depiction of untamed nature in all its awesome power, and of the human heart in the throes of transformation, A Christmas Escape gifts readers with Anne Perry’s talent for making the season brighter – and more thrilling.