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by Anne Perry
Ballantine, November 2018
192 pages
ISBN: 0399179941

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Anne Perry's Christmas novellas, set in Victorian England, are always the antidote to an often busy, overscheduled holiday season. These are nice short stories to curl up with a cup of tea.

In her latest novella, the reader meets 9-year-old Worm (real name Warren), a former street urchin who now lives in Hester Monk's clinic for women in Portpool Lane. He's befriended by Claudine Burroughs, a wealthy woman who volunteers at the clinic, and Squeaky Robinson, the clinic's accountant.

Out on the street one day, Worm spies a beautiful woman being forcibly taken away by two men. Concerned about the woman, he cajoles Squeaky to help him. Squeaky tries to distract the child with plans for an elaborate Christmas dinner—something Worm, who doesn't even know the meaning of Christmas, has never experienced. But Worm is not to be put off, and Squeaky eventually is persuaded to help. Indeed, Squeaky is perhaps in the best position to help. Before the clinic was established, it was used as a brothel, and Squeaky was an accountant there as well. His former shady connections lead him to find out that the woman, Eloise, is helping the two men against her will—her father had stolen some gold from them, but died as he was being chased by the two men. The criminals believe she knows where that gold is hidden.

Squeaky's dubious past also pays off as he concocts an elaborate plan to get the men to leave Eloise alone for good. One of the best scenes is toward the end, with the characters in a cat-and-mouse game through the foggy streets of London, leading to a dramatic conclusion.

Although Worm has never experienced a true Christmas, it's the child who, in the end, brings the true Christmas spirit to the adults around him.

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

Reviewed by Lourdes Venard, November 2018

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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