A Christmas Guest Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of A Christmas Guest

Mariah Ellison, who is an unruly grandmamma, is staying with extended family while her grandchildren are off to France for Christmas, which leaves her to prove that Maude Barrington's death was indeed a murder. During her stay with her in-laws Caroline and Joshua Fielding, she finds herself unwanted and unloved because she is away from her normal life in London while she is now in the Romney Marshes. She finds herself in company with Maude Barrington, who is Joshua and Caroline's cousin, and now has become the center of attention with her colorful personality while being overly outgoing, which is annoying to Mariah. The days with Maude involved long conversations about her travels and everything she had experienced during her time away.
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After two day, Maude is found dead in her sleep and Mariah is compelled to find out whether she has been murdered because she found a bottle of medicine for indigestion.

So, Mariah sets off to the town of Snave where the family of Maude resides to share her bad news about Maude. The trip to Snave was her chance to find out the truth about her family and whether any one of them is capable of murder. She meets Barrington family to tell them about Maude's untimely death. Mariah is introduced to Maude's two sisters and their spouses, Mrs. Bedelia Harcourt and Mr. Arthur Harcourt, Mrs. Agnes Sullivan with Zachary Sullivan, and Clara, Bedelia's daughter along with Clara's son, Randolph, who appears to be upset about Maude's death. Mariah finds out that Maude was sent to Joshua and Caroline's house because she was considered embarrassing to the family and they didn't want their important guest Lord Woollard to see Maude behaving poorly. This makes Mariah feel sympathetic because she had been left behind to stay with people she was out of touch with.

During the dinner, she discovers that Maude was away for 40 years and never kept in contact with the family, which seemed usual to Mariah. After the dinner, Mariah goes to her room to discover there was an extra room for Maude to stay with the family and how it contradicts the reason why she was sent away for Christmas. Maude was ultimately sent her away because they had no spare room for her with a guest staying with them, which is why Maude she was staying with cousin's house who appeared to be strangers to Maude. Mariah finds some indigestion medicine of which Maude said there was none left but the little she brought with the nuts sent with her by Bedelia. This seems very odd to as she checked other rooms and found the same.

The next day she goes with Agnes to make deliveries to some of the town members. Mariah learns that Bedelia was first in love with Zachary, but Bedelia leaves him to be with Arthur who is considered to be better than Zachary. Then Mariah finds out that Arthur was in love with Maude, but leaves her for Bedelia. Maude then leaves the family without any communication until she comes back for Christmas. Mariah decides to figure out why Maude left and stumbles upon missing poisonous flowers called the foxglove in Bedelia's garden. Bedelia according to the staff had been in the garden before Maude left for her cousin's house. This was important to Mariah because Maude's indigestion medicine mixed with foxglove could have caused the heart to stop. There was still a lot to learn about this family and Mariah felt she needed more time to do more detective work.

Mariah then left to deliver a present to Mrs. Dowson, who was the old curate, they talked about how Maude wrote her and told her about why she had come back to her family after 40 years of being in Persia and Africa. She learned that Bedelia was the competitive sister who got what she wanted while Agnes was the plain sister and Maude was the fun loving sister. Agnes was considered to be second best after Bedelia left Zachary for Arthur, which Agnes was now married to Zachary. Mrs. Dowson felt that Agnes was better for Zachary because Bedelia was a grudge holding person that made those around her feel lesser of a person. Mariah found out that Maude left Persia after the man she loved died and she was not able to safely stay there. The conversation left Mariah wondering what made Arthur leave Maude when he clearly loved her more than Bedelia. She came back to the house and went to dinner with the family to finally put the pieces together.

At dinner, Mariah told the family why Maude came home, why Maude left 40 years ago, and what caused Maude's death. She told the family that Maude's spouse died and she wanted to be home, but was nervous about it. Then, she tells them that Bedelia married Arthur because she was pregnant with Zachary's child, but told Arthur it was his child so he would marry her. Mariah continues telling the family that Maude's death was due to Bedelia poisoning her with Foxglove because she did not want Arthur to want Maude back and to avoid scandal from Maude living with another man in Persia. The family was upset from hearing all of the information, which could have been speculation except the family knew it was true. This information changed their family dynamics from Agnes feeling like second best, Arthur leaving Bedelia to see what Maude had seen in her travels, and finally Bedelia was left a disgrace in the family.

From this time away from her family, Mariah learned that she was just like Maude and that this experience had changed her from being a grumpy old woman to a softer and sweeter person. She finds herself enjoying Christmas with a new positive attitude toward those around her because of Maude.
Best part of story, including ending: I liked the way the character Mariah slowly changed as she did more detective work. She become a nicer person and very caring.

Best scene in story: I liked the scene at the last dinner when she tells the family about how Maude was murdered. She continued on to explain why Maude was the way she was and how it was Bedelia to blame for her leaving. Mariah did not allow Bedelia get a word in to interrupt what she needed to say. It was great because the family was now better off because of Mariah disclosed to them. It gave everyone closure for Maude's death.

Opinion about the main character: I liked how she was able to put all the information together at the last scene. I did not expect that Mariah would bring all the information together as fast as she did. I also liked the way she was once she solved the murder because she was so much nicer.

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

Chapter Analysis of A Christmas Guest

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book descript. of violence and chases 20%Planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 40%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 20%How society works & physical descript. (people, objects, places) 20% Tone of story    -   depressing/sad How difficult to spot villain?    -   Difficult, but some clues given Time/era of story:    -   1600-1899 What % of story relates directly to the mystery, not the subplot?    -   50% Special suspect?    -   relative Murder of certain profession?    -   "All in the family" murder Kind of investigator    -   amateur citizen investigator Kid or adult book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Crime Thriller    -   Yes Murder Mystery (killer unknown)    -   Yes

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   retiree Ethnicity/Race    -   British


Europe    -   Yes

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   generic/vague references to death/punishment Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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