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by Anne Perry
Ballantine, November 2013
176 pages
ISBN: 0345530756

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Anne Perry,s Christmas novels are the perfect stocking stuffers: short, quickly read novellas that are nevertheless filled with deep truths, redemption and hope.

In the 11th such novel, A CHRISTMAS HOPE, Claudine Burroughs, part of London's upper-class clique, pushes against the mores of society to find the real killer of a prostitute. Burroughs is a minor character from Perry's William Monk series, a volunteer in Hester Monk's clinic for prostitutes.

As the year 1868 draws to a close, Claudine and her husband attend a big Christmas gala. More and more, Claudine finds herself suffocated by the trappings of luxury and by her loveless marriage to Wallace, who as an investment banker provides a comfortable home but who is an emotional bully. At the party, Claudine goes out to the terrace, where she meets the charming poet Dai Tregarron, who nicknames her Olwen, after a Welsh legend.

An hour later, a streetwalker is beaten out on the terrace, and Tregarron is accused of the crime. But Claudine believes in his innocence, while suspecting three young upper-class men of the brutality. With no one in her circle supporting her, Claudine turns for help to the clinic's bookkeeper, Squeaky Robinson (who appeared in another of Perry's Christmas tales, CHRISTMAS ODYSSEY). Through discreet questioning, Claudine finds two reluctant witnesses. One of them is a young woman whose engagement has been set to one of the three men. Can Claudine also prevent her from making the same mistake in marriage that she has made?

It is not easy for her, and her volunteer work at the clinic hangs in the balance, as her husband threatens to take that away from her. But as she tells one young person: "Virtue is not always an easy or comfortable thing. Sometimes it comes at a high cost. Perhaps that is one of the reasons we admire it." Claudine is an admirable protagonist and shows us that justice, in any season, is something to aspire to.

Lourdes Venard is a newspaper editor in Long Island, N.Y.

Reviewed by Lourdes Venard, November 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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