A Christmas Beginning Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of A Christmas Beginning

Mr. Runcorn, who was a superintendent for the Scotland Yard, was off on a Christmas vacation in the Isle of Anglesey when he stumbles upon the dead body of Olivia Costain, who was the sister of the vicar Arthur Costain and Naomi Costain, his wife. During Mr. Runcorn stay, he had met Olivia the day before she was murdered while attending church. Runcorn had ran into John Barclay, who was someone from one of his murderer cases of which his sister Melisande Ewart had testified in court. Melisande was someone that Runcorn had liked and was hoping to run into her at church. It was the day after church that during a hike Runcorn had found her body lying on a cross in a grave yard. She had a bleeding wound from the stomach and was resting with her eyes open wide. Runcorn was determined to get help and preserve the crime scene.
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To help with the murderer case, Constable Warner called on Chief Constable Alan Faraday to question the locals after Dr. Trimby observed the body of Olivia. They discovered she was stabbed with a blade around midnight and that she may have known this person because she was found facing the killer without any defensive wounds or signs of running away from the killer. Faraday and Mr. Barclay did not want Runcorn to help because they didn't want people to think that one of them was a killer. They assumed he would not be able to be sensitive towards the locals. Runcorn was asked by Melisande and Warner to help with the case, but Faraday was against it until Warner, Naomi, and Arthur convinced him to allow Runcorn to investigate. They all knew this investigation would uncover some dirty information and secrets about the victim and the locals.

Runcorn starts his interview with Arthur Costain and he is supporting Olivia while being unwilling to settle down and have children. Mr. Barclay and Mr. Newbridge were both suitable for marriage but she rejected them both. Both of their interviews portrayed Olivia as being spoiled, a dreamer, and unrealistic about the future. According to Mr. Barclay, Olivia should have settled down like his sister who found a man to support and care for her, but Olivia was very different from Melisande. After speaking with both men, Runcorn talked with curate Thomas Kelsall, who felt that Olivia didn't settle down because she didn't like Mr. Barclay or Mr. Newbridge. Kelsall was a friend to Olivia and felt that she was a person of deep feelings and needed someone who would listen to you. Both Kelsall and Olivia seemed to have a close relationship and he viewed her in a positive manner compared to both Mr. Barclay and Mr. Newbridge. Kelsall told Runcorn that Faraday had wanted to marry Olivia, but she was not interested because she just wanted to be her own person. Runcorn found out that Mr. Newbridge and Mr. Barclay had fought over her and both hated the other. Kelsall felt that Olivia was becoming a financial burden for a vicar who could only afford one woman in his life. The possible motive is jealously, envy, and possible Olivia was hard to deal with.

Runcorn decided that he needed to talk to Miss Medllicott, who was Olivia's school teacher to get some answers. He learned that Olivia was full of knowledge of nature along with the love of traveling. Olivia had fallen for a poet names Percival a couple years ago and she had wanted to leave with him to Africa, but she stayed and had rejected Mr. Newbridge, Mr. Barclay, and Mr. Faraday. When Runcorn spoke with Naomi Costain, he got the feeling she was holding back something, but she would not say. Mr. Faraday was upset with Runcorn and wanted him to leave, but Melisande begged him to continue like she done in the past. Runcorn was under the impression that there was a secret about Olivia and she might have been killed for it. So, Runcorn is at a standstill until decides to investigate Faraday in more detail.

Runcorn left the area to go to Cardiff University to look up Faraday's life and character. He found he lived a simple life, but wanting to prove himself. Then, he found that Mr. Newbridge had a lot of land and was expected to marry and have children. When he returned, Faraday was able to find out from Naomi that Olivia was pregnant with Percival's child, but he was too poor to marry her. She was then with seeing Mr. Barclay, but when he found out about this he broke it up. Mr. Barclay pushed Mr. Newbridge to pursue Olivia because he despised Mr. Newbridge and wanted to disgrace him. When Mr. Newbridge found out about Olivia and the baby, she rejected him. He could not be with a woman having another man's child especially a poor man.

Olivia had lost the baby and Naomi was with her through the whole ordeal. Naomi knew that each of the guys who wanted to marry Olivia were not good enough for her and wanted her to marry for love. So, Mr. Barclay saw how he could get back at Mr. Newbridge through Olivia, so he killed her to avoid being disgraced by her rejection. They found the weapon and burnt clothing of which Mr. Newbridge. Runcorn had done all the work and received no credit, but won the love of Melisande who wanted to marry him and not Faraday.
Best part of story, including ending: I liked how the main character shows how he feels in and how he is vulnerable. The character is not just a police officer, but a man who wants to be in love. Even after all the investigating, he still finds a way to be warm and caring.

Best scene in story: I think my favorite scene is the ending when all the credit was given to Constable Faraday, but Runcorn was humble and walked away. He knew it was him who solved that case and that's all he needed, but Melisande goes after him to let him know that he should have gotten all the credit for it was all his hard work on the case. She also asked him if he loved her and he did, which she asked him to propose marriage to her. It is a sweet ending because it shows that nice guys don't always finish last. Runcorn got the best reward for his hard work, which is someone to love him.

Opinion about the main character: I liked how Runcorn was persistent to find the killer. He had a soft side and empathized for the other characters. He did not give up on finding the killer even when others refused to believe and even wanted him to leave. Although, he had a way of getting his point across and letting others know he cared.

The review of this Book prepared by Millicent Schrock a Level 2 American Robin scholar

Chapter Analysis of A Christmas Beginning

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book descript. of violence and chases 10%Planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 40%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 30%How society works & physical descript. (people, objects, places) 20% Tone of story    -   depressing/sad How difficult to spot villain?    -   Very difficult--no foreshadowing/clues Time/era of story:    -   1600-1899 What % of story relates directly to the mystery, not the subplot?    -   60% Murder of certain profession?    -   lawmen Kind of investigator    -   british mystery (I say!) Kid or adult book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Any non-mystery subplot?    -   feelings of fear/loss/inadequacy Crime Thriller    -   Yes Murder Mystery (killer unknown)    -   Yes

Main Character

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   police/lawman Age:    -   40's-50's Ethnicity/Race    -   British


Europe    -   Yes European country:    -   England/UK

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   generic/vague references to death/punishment Amount of dialog    -   significantly more descript than dialog

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Anne Perry Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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