Review posted January 8, 2014.
Ballantine Books, New York, 2013. 197 pages.
I do love Anne Perry’s Christmas mysteries. I caught the latest a few days after Christmas, but still in time for a good holiday adventure. A Christmas Hope is set in the same world as her William Monk series (which I haven’t gotten around to reading yet), featuring a woman who works at the clinic with Mrs. Monk.
This woman, Claudine Burroughs, is at a Christmas party, trying to keep up appearances with her husband and make the right contacts. Bored with the party, she goes out to the terrace and is surprised to meet Dai Tregarron, a Welsh poet. Here is how he introduces himself:
“I would say ‘at your service,’ but I do little of use. Poet, philosopher, and deep drinker of life . . . and of a good deal of fine whiskey, when I can find it. And I should add, a lover of beauty, whether it be in a note of music, a sunset spilling its blood across the sky, or a beautiful woman. I am regarded as something of a blasphemer by society, and they enjoy the frisson of horror they indulge in when mentioning my name. Of course, I disagree, violently. To me, the one true blasphemy is ingratitude, calling God’s great, rich world a thing of no value. It is of infinite value, so precious it breaks your heart, so fleeting that eternity is merely a beginning.”
Claudine doesn’t prolong the conversation and goes back inside and does her duty at the party. But then the party is interrupted by a young man with blood on his clothes. He comes in from the terrace, saying that Tregarron attacked a young woman and the young man and his two friends tried to stop him.
The young woman dies, and the police are looking for Tregarron. Claudine can’t quite bring herself to believe that the gentlemanly poet would be so violent. But what business does she have interfering in such a mystery?
I like all the variation in Anne Perry’s Christmas mysteries. No two are quite the same, but they all present a good puzzle, and people who want to do the right thing. They all have an uplifting theme, perfect for Christmas.