Published: 12 November 2022
A family reunion. A shocking secret. A night to die for…
On a snowy December night, the Bailey family are gathered at an isolated hotel in the English countryside. They’re reuniting for the first time since the accident that shattered their lives ten years ago.
It’s a time for love and forgiveness. But more than one guest has an ulterior motive:
The perfect daughter
The single mother
The handsome husband
The beautiful sister
The jealous sibling
As the clock strikes midnight, one member of the party is found dead at the foot of the grand marble staircase.
Everyone is a suspect. But which one of them is a killer?
This completely addictive psychological thriller is packed with chilling twists that will keep you up all night. Perfect for fans of The Hunting Party and The Chalet.
It’s the first of December and I feel excitement bubbling up inside me as I sit at my desk, looking out at the crisp, cool winter’s morning. I’ve always loved this time of year, it’s a time of hope, a time of joy, a time of promise. For me, the beginning of December marks the start of a new chapter and is a far more exciting month for fresh starts than dull and dreary January. December is a month of connecting with others with memories to be made and good times to be had. As my manicured hands run along the fold of the gold envelope I smile to myself. It’s taken a long time to work up the courage to do what I’m about to do. The time is right and I’m finally ready to put my plan into action.
I slide the gilded invitation into the envelope and then seal it. Picking up my silver fountain pen, I write the familiar name and address with a flourish. I sit back, surveying my handiwork, and I feel a calm settle over me. I haven’t seen my mother or my two sisters for the last ten years. Making any kind of contact with them is a really big deal for me. But I think the time is right to mend broken bridges and my therapist agrees.
So I’m inviting them to our annual Christmas party. The one me and my husband Aaron throw every year at our gorgeous country hotel. There have to be some perks to owning a sprawling manor house, and this is definitely one of them. In the last few years, our Christmas party has become part of the festive calendar for many of our friends and Aaron’s family. I adore playing the hostess, choosing the perfect food, the perfect decorations, the perfect entertainment and then welcoming all of our guests. It gives me a huge sense of satisfaction when an event I’ve organised is a hit. Except, I’ve always felt like something is missing. Because even though it’s our Christmas party, the hotel is actually filled with all of Aaron’s family and, if I’m honest, the majority of our friends here are his too. Sure, his family treats me as one of their own by now. We’ve been together for over nine years and his friends are also my friends by extension. But there’s no-one here for just me.
I’ve decided now is the time to change that. Whatever happened in the past, I’m sure we can all move on from it. After having children of my own, my darling twins Ophelia and Jasper, I’ve realised just how important family is. Christmastime is the ideal moment for forgiving and forgetting.
‘Here’s your tea.’ Nia, one of our waitresses, and my most trusted member of staff, comes into the room and puts a tea cup down on my polished oak desk.
‘Thank you. Can you send these out in this morning’s post.’ I gesture at the expensive invitations and Nia immediately scoops them into a tidier stack to take with her.
‘Is there anything else you need?’
‘There’s a couple coming in for a wedding consultation at noon, it’s in the diary. Make sure you’re on hand for refreshments.’
‘Certainly,’ Nia replies, flicking her raven hair over her shoulders and taking the bundle of gold envelopes with her as she exits the room.
All I have to do now is wait for the replies. I’ve included photos of Ophelia and Jasper as well as a heartfelt letter to each of the women I’m desperate to be reunited with: my mother Nadia, my older sister Sasha and my younger sister Leah.
I gaze out of my big bay window. I love this view of the gardens, it’s the reason I chose this room to be my office. The terrace, dotted with rattan garden furniture, gives way to a formal rose garden. The flowers have already withered and died for this season, but we have some colourful winter shrubs blossoming at the moment and the pops of purple, pink and blue cheer up the space in the absence of the roses at this time of year.
Beyond the terrace we have an extensive lavender field. In the summertime, the scent is simply divine and the purple rolling field is such a pretty picture. This spot is popular with the brides who get married at Burcott House. They love to have their photoshoots amongst the blanket of purple and it’s a big part of the attraction for couples wanting to get married here. We also have a team of staff employed to make all sorts of lavender-scented products, from soap to gin; Burcott House lavender products have a steady stream of sales through the year. Our guests love to purchase our lavender-scented gifts as a memento of their stay, the locals in the nearest village adore the lavender honey we make, and our online sales are on the up as well. The lavender enterprise is just one of the many projects I’ve been working on since Aaron officially let me take over the management of the hotel when the twins went to school, and our profits have quadrupled in that time.
Curving alongside the lavender fields is a narrow road that leads to the cottage where we live as a family. I can just about spot the top of the roof from here. We do sometimes stay in the hotel if the rooms aren’t booked, for a change of scenery, but it’s wonderful to have the quaint four-bedroomed cottage to return to after a busy day. It helps me separate myself from work demands and gives me the chance to switch off in a way I can’t if I stay at the hotel. I’m lucky that my commute is only a ten-minute walk along the charming lane between the two buildings.
We’re miles away from the nearest village and the rural, tranquil location is such a draw for our returning customers. A haven away from the hustle and bustle of the world. I find looking out at the scenery surrounding the hotel so soothing and I need that right now because I’m nervous. What if my mother and sisters don’t reply? What if they say no and refuse to come? But I can’t think negatively, I just have to wait and see what happens. In the meantime, I’m going to get on with my party planning. There’s so much to be done.
Because I want to make sure this will be a Christmas party that none of our guests will ever forget.
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