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 company’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 very last page.
Today I am delighted to welcome author Trish Harnetiaux’s to booksaremycwtches with an extract from her debut novel The Secret Santa.
For a moment Claudine almost didn’t tell her about the Secret Santa. She could just cancel it. Her employees would be glad. She knew how much they dreaded it each year. At most holiday parties, the game was a light-hearted romp. Cheap gag gifts. Ten- or twenty- dollar limit. Claudine’s version was different. In introducing the annual game, she had neglected to include a price limit. After a couple years, a spirit of one-upmanship had been established, along with an expectation that each employee should bring a lavish gift, one that reflected how well they’d performed over the year, how much they’d racked up in commissions. The purpose had originally been to make people laugh, to reward the most clever. After a few years of observing the tradition, however, it was clear that their light-hearted, team- building holiday game served only to create competition, cause jealousy, and stir rivalry among her staff. Claudine encouraged a level of competition, but even she would admit that including Zara in this year’s Secret Santa would make the team even more uneasy and desperate to impress.
“Ooh, I love party games!” Zara said. “Entertaining is my jam, and it’d be nice to see the space full of people.”
Having it at the house posed a few problems. Sure, it was available. That wasn’t an issue. Mr. and Mrs. Lions— the first and only owners— had already moved to Scottsdale. And the place was still furnished. The moving company wasn’t coming until after the holidays. But switching the party from the office to Montague House meant Claudine would have to make it a more extravagant affair. Catering. Florals. A piano player would be a nice touch, given the Lions’ gorgeous black Steinway grand. She’d need to invite a few more people to fill out the space. And invitations. No matter how intimate, a proper soirée required a proper invitation. Claudine was willing to make certain compromises, but not when it came to etiquette.
The biggest problem was Henry. He had been so distraught over her taking the listing. Of course, he didn’t come out and say so. Too quiet. Never said much of anything. She was the talker, the salesperson. He expressed himself through his designs. Yet it was hardly a coincidence that right after she told him the Lions had asked her to sell Montague House, he wound up in the hospital. She knew what the mention of the house must have stirred up. The unspoken. If business wasn’t so bad, she wouldn’t have dared— would have told the Lions to find another broker. They did not have that luxury. They couldn’t refuse any listing. At least it was one of theirs. If things didn’t pick up soon, Claudine would have to consider branching into listings for houses Henry hadn’t designed. That the Alpine brothers hadn’t built. That Calhoun + Calhoun hadn’t overseen from the dig to dinner with the new owners.
Taking the listing was one thing. Asking Henry to come to the party at Montague House was another. He hadn’t been back since they finished building it and turned the keys over to the Lions. He wouldn’t even drive past it, taking long detours to avoid catching the slightest glimpse of the property. To go back there after all these years, to once again step through those large oak doors into the marbled foyer, into the past . . . who knew what that might do to him?
You can purchase this novel from Amazon
About the author
The Secret Santa is Trish Harnetiaux’s debut novel. She is a Brooklyn-based playwright whose published works include Tin Cat Shoes, How To Get Into Buildings, and If You Can Get To Buffalo.
Follow her on Twitter @TrishHarnetiaux