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by Anne Perry
Ballantine, November 2017
192 pages
ISBN: 0425285073

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In her fifteenth Christmas novella, Anne Perry brings us Mariah Ellison, the grandmother of Charlotte Pitt (from the author's Victorian series about police officer Thomas Pitt and his wife, Charlotte). A few days before Christmas, Mariah gets an urgent summons from the grandson of a longtime friend, Rowena Wesley.

Alone in London, Mariah decides to travels to the small town of Haslemere, in Surrey. Twenty years ago, Rowena's husband died under mysterious circumstances at home, shortly after breaking ties with a client. Cullen Wesley, a lawyer, had been defending Owen Durward, the village doctor, in the rape and murder of a fourteen-year-old girl. The day after severing ties with Durward, Cullen was found dead in his home, his death put down to an accident. Durward, with a new lawyer, was acquitted in the girl's murder.

Now, Durward has returned to Haslemere, claiming he wants to clear his reputation. But his return may ruin Rowena's reputation and the good name of Cullen. Mariah, in her 80s and often found to be a difficult, bad-tempered person, also has a secret she has kept hidden, of a time when she didn't fight back—but should have. With new resolve—and the help of Rowena's grandson Peter—she knows she must defend her friend Rowena and uphold Cullen's reputation. Mariah and Peter go to work investigating what really happened—both in the girl's murder and Cullen's death.

As one character says, "What's Christmas about, if not hope and giving a hand when it's needed? Setting things right, before the end of the old year."

Over the years, Anne Perry's Christmas novellas have ranged from very good to mediocre. I'm glad to say this one is very good. It's comforting and easy to digest, a bit like the tea and toasted crumpets often described in the novella. Yet it carries a powerful and uplifting message, perfect for the holiday season.

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

Reviewed by Lourdes Venard, December 2017

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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