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A Christmas Vanishing


A Christmas Vanishing

I cannot begin to describe the amount of mixed feelings I had as I was reading A CHRISTMAS VANISHING. I have been a fan of Anne Perry’s work for decades, so I was devastated by her passing earlier this year. Knowing that this would be her final holiday novella, I planned to relish every page of it. I am pleased to report that it’s one of the finest Christmas-inspired mysteries Perry ever wrote.

Charlotte Pitt’s grandmother, Mariah Ellison, is the star of the show, and she does a more than capable job carrying the story. She is aboard a train heading from London to the small village of St. Helens in Dorset. Her longtime friend, Sadie Alsop, has sent her an open invitation to spend Christmas with her and her husband, Barton. This is a big deal as they have not seen each other in over 20 years due to a petty falling-out they had.

"Longtime readers like myself will be immensely satisfied at the opportunity to spend one more holiday season with the writer who reminded me so much of Dame Agatha Christie."

So Mariah is quite surprised when, upon arriving at the Alsops’ cottage, Barton answers the door and promptly states, “You can’t stay here. Sadie isn’t here.” Moments later, he literally closes the door in her face, leaving her out in the cold just a few days before Christmas.

Thankfully for Mariah, she kept the carriage waiting. Having grown up in this town, she still knows most of the residents and asks to be taken to the home of another old friend, Annabel Spears, who lives with her husband, John. They take Mariah in, but Annabel is quick to indicate that they are not able to put her up. When Mariah explains what happened at the Alsops, Annabel does not seem surprised at all about Sadie’s disappearance. But when pushed for more details, she backs away.

Arrangements are made for Mariah to stay at the home of Annabel’s single, spinsterish sister, Gwendolyn. She is far more forthcoming and hospitable, and they make plans to hit the town the next day to ask around about Sadie. Their visit seems to turn up some mixed feelings about Sadie and her alleged disappearance, and no one appears to be overly concerned. When Mariah later teams up with bookshop owner Oliver, they take their concerns to the local constable, who also has no clue as to what may have happened to Sadie or where she could be.

Mariah is very determined and eventually learns that Sadie has been playing a dangerous game of blackmail. She has taken mere gossip and skeletons in various closets and held them against some of her neighbors in exchange for hush money. Now it makes complete sense that Sadie might have pushed someone a bit too far and caused them to seek out revenge against her --- perhaps of a permanent nature.

A CHRISTMAS VANISHING maintains a high level of suspense and tension with each passing revelation, and the finale is well worth the wait. As expected, Anne Perry is able to wrap things up in a tidy bow like a Christmas present ready for placement under the tree. Longtime readers like myself will be immensely satisfied at the opportunity to spend one more holiday season with the writer who reminded me so much of Dame Agatha Christie. It truly was a blessing to experience her writing.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on November 22, 2023

A Christmas Vanishing
by Anne Perry