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A Christmas Return by Anne Perry

A Christmas Return (2017)

by Anne Perry

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Christmas (15)

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756244,430 (3.59)2
"'Tis the season of giving--and with this wonderful book, New York Times bestselling author Anne Perry shares a brand-new holiday mystery filled with bygone relationships and hidden secrets. As Charlotte Pitt's grandmother Mariah Ellison finds herself investigating a long-unsolved slaying, it becomes clear that grappling with intrigue and foul play runs in the family. A festive Christmas package left on Mariah's doorstep contains an ominous present, sparking memories of a twenty-year-old murder that shattered her friendship with the victim's widow. Though the gift is a bitter reminder of that tragic time, in the spirit of the season Mariah travels to Surrey in hopes of reconciling with her estranged friend and solving the crime that drove them apart. On arrival, Mariah joins forces with the murdered man's grandson, a sleuth in his own right who's discovered promising evidence as well as a suspect. But Surrey's picturesque hills conceal dark doings and shocking revelations that could make the holiday anything but calm and bright. Decked with intrigue and trimmed with Yuletide spirit, A Christmas Return is a holiday treat wrapped in the glorious storytelling talents of the reigning master of Victorian mystery. Praise for the Christmas Novels of Anne Pery "Perry's Victorian-era holiday mysteries [are] an annual treat."--The Wall Street Journal A Christmas Message "[Perry's] characters have that larger-than-life quality that permeated so many classic films from the golden age of cinema."--BookPage A Christmas Escape "Rivals the classic murder mysteries of Dame Agatha Christie. The suspense is built up so well."--Bookreporter A New York Christmas "A thoroughly enjoyable mystery set against the wonderful historical backdrop of 1904 New York City at Christmastime."--Library Journal (starred review) A Christmas Hope "Very much recommended. a wonderful story."--Historical Novels Review A Christmas Garland "In Anne Perry's gifted hands, the puzzle plays out brilliantly."--Greensboro News & Record"--… (more)



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With the Christmas season approaching, Charlotte Pitt's grandmother, Mariah Ellison, is at the home of her other granddaughter, Charlotte's sister Emily, with none of Emily's family in residence. They're traveling for the holiday. Mariah has mixed feelings about spending the holiday alone except for Emily's servants, but has no plans to do anything to change that.

Then a most unusual package arrives. It's improbably heavy, especially when it's revealed to be a Christmas pudding. Or at least, it looks like a Christmas pudding. It proves to be about an inch or so of cake around a small, decorative cannonball. Then in the later post that day, she also receives a Christmas card with a message from an old friend's grandson. He sent her the cannonball, and he wants her to come help with an impending family crisis, the long-delayed fallout from an unsolved murder twenty years ago.

Mariah Ellison has long been a grumpy, cantankerous woman, not easy to get along with. Nevertheless, she once had a close friendship with Rowena Wesley and her husband, attorney Cullen Wesley. Then a shocking murder of a young girl occurred, and Cullen was preparing to defend the accused killer, Dr. Owen Derwood.

And then suddenly he wasn't defending Derwood. With no explanation, he announced that he could no longer handle the case. Days later, he was dead himself. A bookcase fell over, and he was struck in the head by that decorative cannonball. Derwood was acquitted anyway, and left town. Rumors swirled that instead of Cullen's death being an accident, Rowena might have killed him, in jealousy over his supposed interest in Mariah. The two friends have not met since.

Now Derwood has returned to town, apparently intending to clear his name--which will mean proving the vile rumors about Cullen, Rowena, and Mariah. Rowena's grandson, Peter Wesley, wants Mariah's help in fighting back--which will mean finding, and proving, the truth of what really happened.

As with all of Perry's Christmas novellas, this is a contained story, in a contained location with a small cast of characters. Also like the other Christmas stories, it's an opportunity for a minor character who gets short shrift in the main series novels to take center stage and get some growth and character development. This is Mariah Ellison's second Christmas outing, and I'm starting to like her quite a bit.


I bought this audiobook. ( )
  LisCarey | Sep 19, 2018 |
Anne Perry is the consummate storyteller; capable of mining little nuggets of characters from her own books. Irascible Mariah Ellison is the focus of this seasonal vignette of Victorian Times as portrayed by this fine author. Justice for a girl's rape and murder has not been resolved with serious side effects for first one then, seemingly, another small English village.
Showing her noted persistence coupled with a surprisingly sharp intellect and driven by her history of abuse by her husband Mariah organizes and takes down this serial rapist and killer. ( )
  jamespurcell | Jul 7, 2018 |
It's so great to see the minor characters from the Thomas Pitt series get some of the spotlight for themselves. Mariah Ellison is not necessarily one of those characters I would have thought to shine on, but it was so interesting to see a back story for this character. Using this woman who had had an unhappy life fight to protect the memory of a man long dead truly brought the Christmas spirit to the forefront. ( )
  cyderry | Dec 30, 2017 |
I love Anne Perry, and I particularly enjoy her small Christmas novelettes which feature some of the lesser known characters from her two long-running wonderful series. This one features Chalotte Pitt and her sister Emily's gruff, no-nonsense grandmother Mariah Ellison. Mariah is in London living in Emily's lush and lavish house while Emily and Jack are away in Paris for the holidays., when she receives a very strange package. The package appears to be an ornamental cannonball, and Mariah's world is twisted upside down. That cannonball brings a 20 year old tragedy to her mind. She is being asked to return to a small village in Surrey to help her old friend Rowena who is being slandered for the sudden death of her husband 20 years ago. Mariah doesn't hesitate to go to her aid, and she and Rowena's grandson set out on a dangerous mission to unmask a particularly brutal killer. The suspense in this little book is unrelenting and the plot moves along quickly. We discover another entirely differnent side to stern Mariah. Highly recommended. ( )
  Romonko | Dec 1, 2017 |
A Christmas Return is the 15th of Anne Perry's annual short Christmas mysteries. Once again the focus is on widowed Mariah Ellison, maternal grandmother of Charlotte Ellison Pitt and her younger sister, Emily Ellison Ashworth Radley. It takes place the year after book 3, A Christmas Guest, which also featured Mariah as the protagonist.. Mariah may have resolved to be a better person last Christmas, but she's still being left alone this Christmas. She's been living with Emily and her second husband, but they're not even bothering to foist her on another relative this time. No, everyone has had the good sense to be somewhere else for the holidays.

Luckily for Mariah, she receives a very unusual Christmas present a week before the day itself. That and a card from Peter Wesley, grandson of the late Cullen Wesley. Mariah was known to be a friend of Cullen and his wife, Rowena, but as we readers learn, Mrs. Ellison was hopelessly in love with Cullen.

Peter was only ten years old when Cullen was murdered twenty years ago, a murder as yet unsolved. Peter remembers Mariah as a strong woman. His grandmother, a sweet and gentle soul, needs Mariah (though she doesn't know that yet.)

Dr. Owen Durward, Cullen's last client, has come back to Haslemere, the town where he was tried and acquitted of a heinous crime. He wants to clear his name of the suspicion that he murdered Cullen. To do that, he'll need to have someone else be arrested for murder:. Rowena was the only other suspect.

This case is a godsend for Mariah. She's still burning with shame over the big secret that turned her bitter and waspish (revealed for the first time in Half Moon Street, book 20 in the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series). Her shame is that she fought back only once. Now she can fight another despicable man on Rowena's behalf. The other good thing is the way Peter sees her as so much better than she feels she is.

Peter is certain that Mariah will triumph. There is a clue to be followed, but will there still be an answer after twenty years?

NOTES (look for persons, characters, and things mentioned at the end of each section's notes.)

Section 1:

a. Emily Radley's first husband was Lord William Ashworth.

b. Caroline's second husband is Joshua Fielding.

b. We are told why Mariah uses a walking stick.

c. Peter Wesley's background is given.

Mention: Queen Victoria,

Section 2:

a. See book one, The Cater Street Hangman, for how and why Sarah Ellison Corde was murdered.

b. Emily and Jack Radley are spending Christmas in Paris.

c. Mariah overhears two gossips' opinion of her.

Mention: corduroy and 'Cord-du-roi'.

Section 3:

a. The Wesleys' home is still called Seven Elms even though there are only four now.

b. Mariah thinks about her grandson-in-law, Thomas Pitt. Her opinion of him has changed over the years.

c. Mariah recalls a sermon given by a curate whose name she doesn't recall, except it was ridiculous.

d. Rowena recounts the rape and murder of Christina Abbot, who was only 14 years old.

Section 4: Mariah thinks back to what it was like being married to her husband (in the bad old days, it was not considered rape if a woman's husband forced himself on her).

Section 6: Look here for Mariah turning the tables on an obnoxious young reporter named Mr. Roberts. I thoroughly enjoyed the way she handled him -- without even mentioning that one of her grandsons-in-law is a member of Parliament and another a policeman, or that Lady Vespasia Cumming-Gould considers her granddaughters members of her family. On the other hand, when she wishes she had a son or grandson like Peter Wesley, she doesn't wish for either of her great-grandsons to grow up to be like him.

Section 9: Look here for Mariah's feelings about Charlotte.

Section 13: This is where we readers learn what is meant by calling a fruitcake 'sad'.

There are no actual chapters. The various sections are separated by a design that looks like two clusters of three leaves or petals (or two bad drawings of Mexican sombreros) facing left and right with another leaf or petal above and below their bottoms.

I suppose the reason that I like this Christmas novella so much is that I am a former victim of child abuse and my abuser died before I learned there was a name for what he did to me. I never got to confront him. Mariah Ellison's part in discovering the information needed, as well as the confrontation scene, were deeply satisfying. ( )
  JalenV | Nov 13, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Anne Perryprimary authorall editionscalculated
Batten, KarinDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hinds, Diane M.Author photosecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Huey, BelinaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rafton, AletaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sterlin, JennyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To all who have the courage to keep on trying.
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[Mariah Ellison to Mr. Roberts, a reporter who has been trying to provoke her.]

'Does your mother know what you do?' she said tartly. 'And how you do it?'
He looked startled.
'That would make an interesting article, don't you think?' she went on. 'How does a woman face her neighbors, her friends, should she have any, and explain how her son twists the words of the frightened and bereaved, so as to make them seem dirty? Tell me, do you ever question anyone who has the back? Pursue those you love? Do you have a wife? Children? Are they proud of you? Or afraid?'
'Really, Mrs. Ellison --' he protested.
She rose to her feet, lifting her weight a little by leaning on the arms of the chair. 'Of course you don't!' she answered her own question. 'If you did, you would leave them open to retaliation, and you wouldn't be so foolish. Now that I have told you what little I know, you can share it with... what is the collective noun for journalists? A pack? You are less like hunters, more like carrion feeders. You go after the already wounded -- or dead. I know it is a ' 'murder' ' of crows. That seems appropriate.' She glared at him and was satisfied to see the color rise in his face. 'I'll shall have the footman show you out.' (section 6)
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