From the publisher: A spectacularly spine-chilling novella in which an American art student in London is invited to join a classmate for the holidays at Starvewood Hall, her family’s Cotswold manor house. But behind the holly and pine boughs, secrets are about to unravel, revealing this seemingly charming English village’s grim history.
The Christmas Guest is a small bite of a read, a little snack that can be read in one sitting. It’s immersive and fun and a bit disturbing. We hear from two voices: Emma Chapman, the English student who lives at Starvewood Hall, and Ashley Smith, the American classmate Emma has invited home for the holidays. Ashley speaks to us through the words she pours into her diary.
The author pulled me in right from the Dedication: “For two aunts – Pearl Taylor Moynihan, who disliked Christmas, and Sue Ellis Swasey, who doesn’t particularly like it either.” The dedication is followed by an Epigraph that calls out to A Christmas Carol.
The novella opens with our narrator, living in New York and alone on Christmas Day except for her cat, sorting through her crowded bedroom closet. She comes across an old diary, written by a friend thirty years ago. Although hesitant to “go back in time to that annus horribilis, that murderous year,” she cannot stop herself and begins to read.
The author pokes fun at himself and his “gothic” novella, with Ashley, the diary’s author, revealing that things are both exciting and creepy and almost willing herself into a gothic romance or thriller. (“Chance of gothic thriller murder mystery: Growing by the minute.”) There are a few twists, but in a weird way, this is a comfort read for the cozy mystery reader. It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out where the story is going, but the atmosphere makes it worth the read.
The cover is amazing – cute and cozy but also sinister. I read an advance reader copy of The Christmas Guest from Netgalley.
It is scheduled to be released on October 17 and will be available at the Galesburg Public Library. (Although it comes out in October, I recommend waiting until Christmastime to read it. 😊)