Book review: The Christmas Guest by Peter Swanson

Wednesday, December 13, 2023 Permalink

The Christmas Guest by Peter Swanson is a cleverly delivered story of events taking place 30 years ‘earlier’ and their repercussions. It opens in the present with a woman – alone on Christmas day – pottering around her house going through old boxes, when she comes across an old diary. She flicks through to a section she knows well wondering (though) if she’s prepared to go back and revisit that ‘murderous year’.

The next part of the plot unfolds through diary entries, starting in mid December 1989 when a young American (essentially orphaned) woman studying in England is offered the chance to go and stay with a friend and their family over Christmas rather than spend it alone in London.

Book review: The Christmas Guest by Peter SwansonThe Christmas Guest
by Peter Swanson
Published by Faber & Faber
on 28/09/2023
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Crime Fiction, Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 0571378773
Pages: 104

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?

The diary entries offer a real sense of their author. She’s enamoured by her friend’s brother Adam, horrified by her friend’s parents’ disdain for their children, and charmed by the house and village. (And having been to the Cotswolds in July/August I could certainly relate!)

She soon learns a young woman (who she resembles) has been murdered and Adam is a suspect, though it seems improbably to her he’d do such a thing.

I’ve read a few of Swanson’s books and he certainly delivers on the surprise element here; the twist taking place halfway through the book when we return to the present. And… I can’t say much more than that lest I give things away.

I should mention this is only about 140 pages long so we don’t get to spend as much time as I would have liked on some elements but this is a quick read and easily devoured in a sitting. There’s not a lot of blood and grime but a bit more evil than your usual Christmas-themed cosy crime novel.

The Christmas Guest by Peter Swanson was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin. Allen & Unwin. 

I received a (gorgeous hardcover)copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.


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