Tuesday, November 7, 2023

November Read: The Christmas Guest by Peter Swanson


It's been a bit since I last posted, but I swear I've been very busy reading! I'm in the throes of reading a lot of YA novels for a special project. I snuck this one in tonight for a quick read. 

Yes, I usually don't read any holiday books until after Thanksgiving, but I'll confess this is my second holiday book already. This was a great little novella that I read in one sitting this evening. 

The Christmas Guest is a mere 93 pages and because of that, it was a refreshing read. Okay, it's a murdery kind of book, but it was a switch from my usual cozy and romantic holiday books. The perfect palate cleanser before I dive into all the happy holiday reads. 

Peter Swanson packs a lot into this novella about a young American college student spending Christmas week with a new friend. Ashley Smith is all alone in London; a Californian who has no family and has traveled to London to attend college. Befriended by Emma at school, she's pleased to accept Emma's invite to her family home in the countryside. After all, she was prepared to spend Christmas alone in London, and heck, why not have an authentic English Christmas in the countryside?

Ashley travels to Starvewood Hall, and is instantly smitten with Emma's twin brother, Adam. He's gorgeous and brooding--and also a suspect in the recent murder of a local woman, found dead near the family home. Clearly she was murdered. Adam has an alibi, but it's pretty weak. That doesn't stop Ashley from falling hard and crushing on Adam. 

Ashley spends the week leading up to Christmas hanging out at the family home, witnessing the horrible relationship Emma has with her toxic parents, and walking to and from the village pub, drinking and having fun. She writes it all down in her trusty diary. Until Christmas Eve, and whoa the story takes a sharp turn. 

This novella spans thirty years, from 1989 to present day (give or take a few years). It seems pretty straightforward, until it's not. I loved it--even if it's not the usual sweet tale of holiday celebrations and family love that I enjoy so much.

Rating: 5/6 for a novella that sucked me in pretty quickly! A setting that has all the hallmarks of an idyllic Christmas celebration turns dark and what happens echoes down through the years. If you like short stories and thrillers, this is for you. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

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