A Christmas Secret

Written by Anne Perry
Review by Melinda Hammond

In December 1890, Clarice Corde accompanies her husband to the village of Cottisham, where he is to stand in while the resident vicar takes a holiday. The beautiful country setting is a complete contrast to the bleak area of industrial London where her husband Dominic is a curate, and Clarice considers the break an ideal Christmas present. Dominic is anxious to make the right impression in the village, and even when events take a tragic turn, the couple are determined to do what is right.

Ms Perry’s descriptions of the winter landscape are excellent, but although the date is conveniently stated in the first paragraph, there is little Victorian atmosphere in this novella. The plot is implausible, with “an excellent housekeeper” who does not notice that her employer has gone away without taking any of his belongings, and villagers rushing to confess to Dominic secrets they had not confided to their own vicar who, it would appear, was an admirable and wise shepherd to his flock. There are also inconsistencies: for example Dominic and Clarice decide that they should trust no-one in the village, yet both go off to discuss matters with people who would appear to be under most suspicion. Disappointing.