Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Christmas Hope, by Anne Perry

Ballantine Books, ISBN 9780345530752, December 2013

Claudine Burroughs, a volunteer at Hester Monk's clinic for prostitutes, simply endures her marriage to her husband, Wallace Burroughs. Dutifully attending yet another Christmas season social event with him, she meets a charming if slightly alarming Welsh poet, Dai Tragarron.

Within an hour, a prostitute smuggled into the party is badly injured, and Tragarron is on the run. A servant alerts Claudine to the presence of a man hiding in their barn the next morning, and she discovers it's Tragarron. He insists he's innocent, that the three young men who claimed to have tried to defend the young woman are in fact to blame. Claudine gives him breakfast and sends him on his way.

Later that day, the young woman dies. Tragarron is now wanted for murder.

The incongruities in the young men's story and her own sense of justice will not let Claudine do the sensible thing, and stay uninvolved.  She needs to find the truth, and she can't go to the Monks, because William is now head of the River Police.

So she recruits Squeaky Robinson, former brothel owner and now bookkeeper at the clinic. As they each investigate in the spheres of society they have access to and knowledge of, Claudine has to confront some painful truths about her own marriage and her own choices.

Once again Perry does an excellent job giving us both a neat puzzle, and characters who grapple with the problems she sets them and learn and grow in the process. These Christmas novellas, including this one, are also an opportunity to explore a bit more of Perry's fictional worlds and the "minor" characters of the main novels.

This is a great little Christmas story if you enjoy Perry's mysteries. Recommended.

I received a free electronic galley from the publisher via NetGalley.