Christmastime in Victorian England. What better setting for staging a vampire play and solving a murder mystery?
The ninth in Perry's series of Christmas mysteries (A Christmas Odyssey, 2010, etc.), the book follows Caroline Fielding as she travels with her young husband, Joshua, and his acting troupe from London to Whitby. Hoping to secure Charles Netheridge’s patronage for the next season, Joshua has contracted to put on a Boxing Day performance of Dracula, adapted by Netheridge’s daughter, Alice. Charles hopes to rid his daughter of frivolous interests before she marries and settles down. However, Alice, engaged to the conservative and artistically unsupportive Douglas Paterson, yearns for independence. The play is amateurish, but encouraged by Caroline, Joshua works closely with Alice to bring the gothic tale to life. Outside, a relentless snow storm isolates the cast and family, and underlying tensions begin to percolate. Douglas’ eye begins to wander towards one of the actors, the lovely Lydia. Vincent, playing Van Helsing, challenges Joshua at nearly every directorial turn. Despite the storm, the mysterious Anton Ballin arrives, seeking shelter and proving to be an expert on not only vampires but also stagecraft. Just as the play falls into shape, Caroline stumbles over a dead body in the dark of night. Isolated by the storm, only one of them could be the murderer. But who?
With careful attention to the nuances of character, Perry offers a tale worthy of mulling over by the fireplace.