"This rediscovered 1951 masterwork presents a brilliantly-observed story of dysfunctional family dynamics that threaten to explode like a ticking Christmas pudding timebomb."
While Christmas-themed fiction often tends towards romantic, feel-good themes — cute enemies-to-lovers type tales, or sparkly stories of first love being rekindled over mugs of mulled wine — Kathleen Farell’s Mistletoe Malice rips up the festive fiction rule book. Reminiscent of Barbara Pym and Stella Gibbons, with a dash of Jean Rhys, it’s a rediscovered 1951 classic that cuts to the core of human nature. Tinkling with intensity, it will chime with readers who love stories that are rich in observations on human nature and the intricacies of family relationships. Also wryly comic, it’s a seasonal story with bells on.
Presenting an incisive snapshot of post-war life in Britain, Mistletoe Malice sees a dysfunctional family reunite for the Christmas period. Within a few sentences you’ll be gripped by their relationship dynamics, vanities and barbed comments, and thanking your lucky stars you’re not spending the holiday season in their company.
With a self-centred widow ruling the roost, the tension mounts as more guests arrive, with the coastal country house setting conjuring an Agatha Christie-esque vibe. In this case, though, the mystery is not a murder. Rather, Mistletoe Malice is a brilliantly-observed study of the complex mystery of family relationships, heightened by the intensity of the Christmas context, and the tinderbox-threat of truths being unleashed.