Cover detail of The Christmas Guest by Peter Swanson

The Christmas Guest by Peter Swanson

Welcome to Day 10 of #12booksofchristmas In case you have missed any of the previous posts, they are listed below:

A couple of years ago, I became rather obsessed with a book called Rules for Perfect Murders. This could have been a contender for #12booksofchristmas as it was set at Christmas, featured a blog, a bookshop devoted to crime and a rather ingenious set of murders. I’m not saying murder is a part of Christmas (I hope!), but there is something cosy about curling up with a good thriller as the Christmas lights twinkle merrily at you. Who knows, maybe it is the juxtaposition of something so unpleasant, taking place at such a lovely time of year. Maybe it is just me and I have issues?

I have pounced on Peter Swanson’s books as soon as I can, and was delighted to see that not only was there a new book, but it was a Christmas mystery. This man speaks to my soul.

The Plot

When Ashley Smith - a bright-eyed but lonely American studying in London - is invited to spend Christmas with her classmate’s family at their Cotswolds manor house, it seems like a perfect country idyll.
And for Ashley - who records it all in her diary - there’s the added romantic potential of her friend’s twin brother, Adam, who she thinks could be her wildest dream come true.
But is there something strange about the old house, both stately and rundown? What could the motives of the mysterious Chapman family be? And what holiday horrors might be lying in wait?

My Thoughts

I think it was about 3 pages in that I knew this was going to be on my #12booksofchristmas list, it was so moreish. Our tale starts with a very chic New Yorker discovering a long forgotten diary and looking back at events that took place one Christmas. Events that took place in a foreign country.

The story centres around Ashley, an American studying in the UK. Ashley is lonely, with no immediate family and is delighted when Emma Chapman, a fellow student invites her to stay at her home over Christmas. What follows is a slightly idyllic Christmas with a very intense family. Discovering that a young girl had been murdered in the village in the previous year, Ashley decides to investigate the murder and what follows is a cracking read.

I do adore Peter Swanson’s excellent writing. It is involving. There are plenty of details but it is never overworked. Instead the narrative is like listening to someone really cool, tell you about their day. And you want to stay and listen. This may include what was for dinner, the clothes the guests all wore, the other people in the party, and even more interesting how much you learn from the writing about our narrator.

There is a lot of Christmas traditions, evenings spent at the pub where the village gathers, twinkly lights, sumptuous food. But it all feels slightly off in some way. As readers we know there is a lot brewing under the surface.

I don’t wish to tell you anything further about this book. It’s a 5 star read from me, and cements Peter Swanson as someone who will be on my bookshelves for years to come. It’s perfect to curl up with when Christmas has gotten a wee bit hectic, and you want some alone time with a cup of coffee. Send the family out on a bracing walk, and snuggle in.