My first book of 2019 is A Christmas Secret by Anne Perry. This is my first book for Bev's Calendar of Crime reading challenge. It covers the January category of 'Month-related item on the cover'... and qualifies because there is a small village snow-scene acting as a Christmas tag on the cover.
The Reverand Dominic Corde and his wife, Clarice, have been sent to the village of Cottisham, in Hertfordshire, eleven days before one Christmas in the mid-1800s. He is to fill in for Reverand Wynter who has gone off on a much needed break. They immediately fall in love with the olde worlde village, very different to the London parish where Dominic was curate to a mean spirited vicar. But despite the beauty of the village something's not right. The local villagers appear guarded. There're clearly secrets but what Clarice wonders is whether or not the Rev Wynter knew of these and what they were. And something else... where is he? Where exactly has the vicar gone on this 'much needed break'? No one seems to know...
Well anyone who has two brain cells to rub together will guess where the vicar is but my lips are sealed. The best thing about this story and the reason I gave it four stars on Goodreads was the absolutely superb snowy, wintery, 'cut off from civilisation', atmosphere depicted in it. It reminded me very strongly of Three Pines in Louise Penny's superb Armand Gamache series. It was beautifully portrayed and I loved it.
The mystery itself was a bit more pedestrian, but I liked Clarice and that she had bags of personality, curiosity and drive. There was a nice twist at the end which I didn't guess, so that was good. To be honest, I don't require a lot from a Christmas mystery, it's not intended to be improving and nor do I need it to be at the beginning of the year when there's a lot going on. The author, Anne Perry, famous for her Victorian Charlotte and Thomas Pitt and William Monk series, has written sixteen Christmas novelas and I've enjoyed those I've read. She doesn't hesitate to use elderly ladies as heroines which makes a refreshing change from fiesty, teenage, young things in a lot of other books. Good fun, wonderful setting, easy, undemanding read.