Originally published in hardcover (left) by Bantam Books, 1989. Paperback (middle) publshed by Grand Central Publishing, 2006. Ebook edition (right) published by Maron & Company, 2012.
Agatha Nominee, Best Novel of 1989.
A relic of Manhattan's Gilded Age, the Erich Bruel House is home to an idiosyncratic collection of art. For over sixty years it has managed on donations from the visiting public and its dwindling trust fund. But tastes in art do change and in trying to restore the house's faded luster, its trustees propose a major retrospective for renowned artist Oscar Nauman. A festive Christmas party in Nauman's honor ends in acrimony—and next morning one of the trustees is found in a most unfestive heap at the bottom of the basement steps. Lt. Sigrid Harald had been an unwilling guest at the party and now she must return to investigate why that trustee was so universally hated. As often happens when Nauman is involved, Sigrid's professional duties are complicated by her off-duty relationships.
Corpus Christmas was first published in 1989, but unlike others in this series, there is little, in a technological sense, to jar the reader unless one compulsively adds and subtracts from the few dates scattered through the text. The New York depicted here is very much as it is today, except—tragically—for the view of lower Manhattan that Sigrid enjoyed from the deck of a Staten Island ferry. Although loosely based on an amalgam of the National Arts Club on Gramercy Park, the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace, and the Horace Williams House in Chapel Hill, the Breul House itself is a complete fiction.
Critical Praise for Corpus Christmas
“A source of enjoyment is its well-drawn cast of art-world characters, as colorful a bunch of pompous types as ever enlivened a Daumier caricature.” (The Wall Street Journal)
“Sigrid Harald is a believable, likable protagonist . . . and just as important is the atmosphere: the feeling of New York City in December is rendered effectively, and that’s always fun.” (Roanoke Times)
“This impressive novel is less a police procedural than a traditional closed-circle whodunit.” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine)
“A conversation in which one character reverses the words of William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal is worth the price of admission alone.” (The Boston Globe)