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by Anne Perry
Ballantine Books, November 2015
176 pages
ISBN: 0553391410

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Charles Latterly has escaped to the Sicilian island of Stromboli for the holidays. He's recently lost his wife, but it's not a sense of grief that drives him from London. Rather, it is a feeling that his life has been meaningless.

But if he hopes to find solace during this getaway, he may have chosen the wrong place. The guesthouse at which he is staying is filled with other British guests, several of them unlikable. There's Percival Quinn, author of a recently published book that is the talk of London; Isla Bailey and her husband Walker, an insufferable man; Colonel Bretherton, who seems to be in love with Isla; and the elderly, likable Roger Finbar and his 14-year-old guardian and great-niece, Candace, a spirited, outspoken teenager. Dinners around a large table often turn into verbal sparring matches.

But far worse is the danger from a nearby volcano that is still active. The volcano's rumbling increases one night, but not enough to scare the guests—until the volcano does indeed begin spewing lava. There are several deaths, including one murder, amid the tension of the erupting volcano. Charles (who is Hester Monk's brother in Perry's William Monk series) is forced to take charge of the remaining guests.

As in Perry's other Christmas novellas (this is the 13th one), the story ends on a note of hope and "the beginning of a million new, wonderful possibilities." This is a book that can be read in a few hours, so readers should not expect deep characterization or complex plotting (in fact, you may figure out the motive for the murder well in advance). While enjoyable, it is not her strongest Christmas offering. If you haven't read any of the novellas, you may want to begin with another one.

§ Lourdes Venard is an independent editor who divides her time between New York and Maui.

Reviewed by Lourdes Venard, December 2015

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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