The Ghost of Christmas Past (by Sally Quilford)

I always take my Kindle with me when flying, and like to read something that will capture my interest without being too long. Very often I opt for one of Sally Quilford’s novellas, several of which I downloaded years ago when she offered the ebook versions free for a short period. Since I was flying to the UK on Boxing Day, I thought that it would be appropriate to read ‘The Ghost of the Christmas Past’, which is part of the ‘Midchester’ series.

It quickly becomes clear that, unlike others in this series which are set in the middle of the twentieth century, this takes place perhaps fifty years earlier; I don’t think a date is specified, but the setting is Victorian rather than post-war. The main character is Elizabeth Dearheart, a young woman who lives with her Vicar father, and her ten-year-old brother Samuel. We meet them as they are coming out of church, chatting with two elderly and impoverished sisters, whom they invite to lunch.

Discussions revolve around some rather shady characters; the sisters, who don’t get out much, like to hear about shocking and scandalous stories. They watch their neighbours, and are inclined to instant judgements of any newcomers.

There’s quite a cast of characters; Sally Quilford is skilled at making people real, and I found myself warming to Elizabeth and her gentle father, and also her somewhat impetuous brother who is always eager to be out and active with his friends. Unfortunately, despite reading this in one sitting, I became quite confused about some of the more minor people and relationships. One disadvantage of reading a book in Kindle form is that it’s quite difficult to go back and re-read or check on earlier chapters to refresh the memory. So it was a bit difficult to work out who was significant in the story, and who was not.

There are some shocks - this series is crime fiction, although I don’t think I could have worked out the details of the events that transpire. But, as usual with this author, I kept reading; the story flowed well despite my not always following who was whom or what had happened, and I was pleased to be able to finish it within about three hours. The ending is entirely satisfactory, even if the outcome was somewhat predictable from rather earlier in the book.

I didn’t like this book as much as I’ve liked some others by Sally Quilford, but it still made a good distraction on what would have been rather a dull five-hour flight.

All the 'Midchester Memories' books stand alone, so can be read in any order. This one is only, as far as I know, available in Kindle form.

Review copyright 2018 Sue's Book Reviews

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