Saturday, February 25, 2023

A Christmas Deliverance, by Anne Perry (author), Jenny Sterlin (narrator)

Recorded Books, ISBN 978105036082, November 2022

Like Perry's previous Christmas novellas, this one focuses on minor characters--in this case, Dr. Crowe and his assistant, Scuff. Scuff, the former mudlark, is also the adopted son of William and Hester Monk, Will. That's how he learned to read, and got his great interest in medicine--and became a medical student and Crowe's assistant.

They're working at Crowe's free clinic, when there's a serious carriage accident not far away. Crowe is called to the scene, and sews up two serious wounds on a young woman's leg. Then the men on the scene help transport her to his clinic.

She's Ellie Hollister, only child of a wealthy businessman, and not someone who would ordinarily come anywhere near his clinic. It's too soon to move her any greater distance, though, and Crowe takes her there, and sends her carriage driver to tell her father.

Crowe is soon smitten with Ellie, and she might be with him, too. Her father is outraged at her being in such an obviously inferior clinic, but accepts the advice of the Hollister family physician that Crowe has done excellent work and it's better for her to stay there awhile longer.

Once she goes home, Crowe expects to never see her again.

Meanwhile, he has sewn up a cut on a little girl's finger. The girl stays because it's warm and safe there, and helps Crowe with tasks that are within the ability of a five-year-old mudlark. On learning she doesn't even have a name, he calls her Mattie.

When Crowe, walking home from visiting a patient, sees Ellie having an argument that turns violent with a young man, he intervenes. 

The man is Paul Dolan, Ellie's fiancรจ, and the son of ruthless and dangerous businessman Silas Dolan. Why has Albert Hollister, who obviously loves his daughter, agreed to this marriage? Why has Ellie? Does Silas Dolan have a hold on Hollister?

Crowe starts poking around, talking to friends, patients, and newsies who know things that would never go in the papers they sell.

These people tell him a lot, but also that Silas Dolan is too dangerous to cross. When Crowe learns about a warehouse fire in which a valuable cargo was destroyed, or reported destroyed, and a night watchman killed, he becomes alarmed, and strange things start happening.

Meanwhile, Mattie is becoming the most useful little pair of hands in the clinic, when Crowe or Scuff need another pair of hands, to thread needles, fetch clean cloths, and generally keep in order the things that she can safely handle. Crowe is startled when he has to explain what the color "blue" is. Scuff doesn't know how to say no when she brings home a kitten--so he doesn't say no, and makes sure Crowe doesn't, either.

When it becomes frighteningly clear that Ellie's father may be involved in the deadly crime Silas Dolan organized, Crowe's heart is aching, but he has to tell Monk what he knows.

This is a trip through the desperately poor and often dangerous streets where they people who seek the services of the free clinic. We see the desperation, but also the bonds of friendship and cooperation. We also see the bonds of found family, in Crowe, Scuff, Mattie, and Monk (and Hester, but she's referred to but not seen in this book.)

There's tension and fear, and warmth and friendship.

Satisfying as always.

I bought this audiobook.

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