Popsugar Reading Challenge 2021 – Book 13

Prompt: A locked-room mystery

I was part of a Secret Santa book exchange on Elfster in December and one of the books I received was The Secret Santa by Trish Harnetiaux. The blurb on the back describes it as “a lavish locked-room mystery with a seasonal edge” so thought I would give it a go and use it for the locked room mystery prompt.

What it’s about?

…It’s beginning to look a lot like murder…


A lavish party. An isolated mansion. Two hosts who will do anything to protect their secrets.

When husband and wife Henry and Claudine organise their firm’s Christmas party in a remote mansion, they expect it to be a night to remember.

But the festive mood quickly turns sour when a sinister gift is unwrapped in the Secret Santa gift exchange.

As heavy snow traps the guests inside the mountainside lodge it quickly becomes clear that one of the party is out for revenge.

It’s no longer just about enduring the evening. It’s about making sure you get out alive.

A lavish locked-room mystery with a seasonal edge, THE SECRET SANTA is packed with twists that will keep you guessing until the final page.

What I think:

This is definitely an interesting twist on the locked room mystery and it’s going to be a hard book to review without giving away any spoilers but I’ll do my best.

Claudine and Henry Callhoun run a luxury real estate company that specialises in designing, building and selling bespoke mansions is Aspen. But business has been bad and they are struggling. When the chance to resell the first home the designed and built together for a staggering profit to an A-list popstar comes along, Claudine jumps at in, despite the fact that it will cause problems for her husband Henry.

Claudine is hard, and cold and ambitious. She is intelligent but ruthless. She plans everything and expects the very highest standards in her quest for success.

Henry on the other hand seems like a broke man. He’s tired and wants ti leave Aspen and the relentless quest for profits.

While they may have been a great team in the past, the cracks in their business and marriage have taken their toll.

The holiday party is supposed to be a fun, luxury version of secret santa. Everyone brings a gift and guests can steal from each other to get the best prize. The game has become super competitive and Claudine even uses it as a way to manipulate her staff and guests.

The holiday party is so tense from the beginning. Claudine is on edge as she desperate to create the perfect first impression. Popstar Zara feels fate has brought her to Aspen because of her obsession with French singer Caudine Longet who had been accused of murdering her lover is Aspen years before. This is a guaranteed sale if everything goes to plan.

The locked room mystery aspect of this book is a real twist. It’s not too much of a spoiler to say that uninvited guests turn up and a mysterious extra secret santa present appears on the table. The contents of which shocks Claudine and Henry to the core and secrets begin to unravelnwith deadly consequences.

I enjoyed this winter mystery. Short chapters from multiple viewpoints keep you intrigued and guessing right to the end. It wasn’t what I expected which was refreshing surprise.

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