Friday, November 22, 2019

A Christmas Gathering (Christmas Stories #17), by Anne Perry (author), Jenny Sterlin (narrator)

Recorded Books, November 2019

Lady Vespasia, now Lady Vespasia Narraway, since her marriage to Victor Narraway, former head of the Special Branch, wanted to spend Christmas with Victor, at home, with a few close friends over. Instead, they are spending Christmas at Cavendish Park, with a small group of social acquaintances, none of whom are really close friends. Lady Vespasia has known the hosts, Lady Amelia and Max Cavendish, for many years, but no, she and Amelia are not really friends.

So why are they there? Lady Vespasia is fairly sure Victor has another Special Branch assignment, though he isn't saying that. Victor, meanwhile, is troubled not only by the assignment at Christmas when he and Vespasia would rather be home, but by echoes of a similar assignment many years ago, relatively early in his career.

This assignment, like the earlier one, is aimed at passing along secret military documents--that have been subtly altered to ensure the Germans won't get the good information they're after, and the Special Branch will also be able to identify the real leaker. In this assignment, Victor's role is to receive the documents from someone better able to receive them from their source, and then later pass them on to someone who can pass them to the next link in the chain. In the previous one, his role was to protect the young woman who was to pass the papers to the person playing what is now Victor's role. In that earlier assignment, he failed, and the young woman was killed. He's haunted by guilt over that.

When the young woman he is to received documents from in this new assignment is attacked and badly, perhaps fatally, wounded, his guilt explodes, and he absolutely must find the attacker and successfully complete this last assignment.

It's an emotionally challenging time for Vespasia, Victor, and others among the little company of guests. In particular, Victor and Vespasia are still comparatively new to their marriage, and each remains astonished that the other chose to enter the marriage. (Vespasia is a good deal older than Victor; Victor is of a much lower social background.) The young lady who is carrying the documents this time, Iris Watson-Watts, is beautiful, and her husband, again of slightly lower social standing, is worried and a bit jealous of the apparent fascination the other men at the gathering regard her with. And so on through the group; everyone has reasons for insecurity.

And of course, there's the small matter of the attack on Iris and who the attacker was, as well as what his real purpose is.

Like all of Perry's Christmas stories, this is fairly short, and very contained in location and participants. It is also, like the others, an opportunity for the series regulars in it to grow emotionally and move forward in their lives. Very well done!


I bought this audiobook.

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