Tag Archives: Anne Perry

A Christmas Grace – Anne Perry

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The library had none of the books I ordered and there was a half-shelf of Anne Perry mysteries just sitting there like an open box of chocolates so I grabbed a few. Terrific escape-from-too-much-taxing-reality reading. A Christmas Grace was a lovely afternoon’s respite from several busy days. Nothing like a little murder and killer storms along the Irish coast to provide entertainment.

Emily Radley travels, against her will but guiltily, to a Connemara village on Ireland’s West coast to spend Christmas with her dying aunt. She hasn’t seen Susannah in a lifetime and she hates to leave her children and holiday celebrations in London but her husband persuades her it is the right thing to do. Susannah, who married for love against her family’s wishes and is now widowed, is very frail and troubled by some secret that seems to have the whole town in its grip. As a terrible storm bears down on the coast, the fear rises palpably and the weather explodes in a maelstrom of wind, rain, lightning and ferocious tides. Through a flash of lightning, Emily sees a ship foundering offshore and, as it sinks, the sea casts a lone survivor into the shallows.

The rescue of the shipwrecked sailor awakens old memories that plunge the village into terrified and suspicious behavior. Daniel, the sailor, can’t remember much more than his first name but has an uncanny way of asking the questions that uncover each person’s most closely held dreams, failings and fears. Emily determines that Susannah wanted her there to uncover the clandestine knowledge that is poisoning the people and emptying the village. Daniel’s questions stir up doubts and uncertainties Emily hadn’t realized she harbored about her own happy marriage. And then she discovers that seven years ago a similar fierce storm cast another young sailor ashore—and that someone in the village murdered him.

A Christmas Grace is a search for motive rather than means. It holds a sense of darkness and menace but no urgent tension or frightening threats to the sleuth or her failing aunt. Emily does come perilously close to dying at an auspicious moment in the plot and she stirs up a hornet’s nest of her own when her questions hit too close for comfort. This is a murder mystery more in the vein of Agatha Christie than Carol O’Connell or even Kate Atkinson. But it is an enjoyable read and I’m happy to have a couple more Perry mysteries to wile away blustery spring evenings in the company of good stories.   

A Christmas Grace: A Novel   Anne Perry | Ballantine Books   2008

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A Christmas Odyssey – Anne Perry

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Just when you think you’ve bottomed out on genre books, Anne Perry’s A Christmas Odyssey comes along and stuns you. There is a raft of these bestselling Christmas books and the world Perry has created in this one is dark, depraved and devoid of anything remotely like tinsel. But it was fascinating, with clever clue-dropping, an insider’s knowledge of crime in Victorian London, and characters as grime-besmirched and morally contentious as adversaries in a court of law or rival theologians.

James Wentworth has everything in the world but his son Lucien as Christmas approaches. The young man has been lured by drugs and vice into a tunnel of sewers and corruption that runs beneath polite society and feeds on its weaknesses. Lucien would seem to be lost for good but Wentworth prevails on a friend, Henry Rathbone, to search for him. Henry collects a former pimp and brothel owner who has turned respectable and a “doctor” without a medical degree who runs a clinic for the down-and-out and enters the underworld.

The journey is lurid, overripe with sickening sensations, fraught with inescapable peril and peppered with colorful denizens of opium dens and whorehouses. Pubs are filthy, blood slicks stone steps in a dark alley, the mere mention of a vile crime boss inspires terrified silence, a legendary beauty haunts the scraps of information about Lucien and his descent into hell. Eventually, the unlikely trio takes on a gutsy teenage barmaid who knows something, and encounters a wraithlike old man in a lavender frock coat who is the key to the tragic story behind the story.

The streets, alleys and sewers are sinister and the festive holiday season begins to seem like the unreal realm. The interior struggles of the seekers are as interesting as their pursuit of Lucien and the truth. A Christmas Odyssey is a richly-detailed, intense journey with high stakes and wonderful characters. Evil and honor are at war in this book but there is never a simplistic attempt to paint the morbid and complex canvas in anything as obvious as black and white.

A Christmas Odyssey: A Novel   Anne Perry | Ballantine Books   2010