It rained here on Christmas Day. A lot. So no stroll around the village to work up an appetite or burn some calories or clear the head, depending on time of day. But I did have my Christmas book, picked up at the library on Christmas Eve.
There’s nothing like a Victorian story at Christmas. All those Christmas cards with Victorian looking Santas, sleighs pulled by horses and apple-cheeked children singing carols tell us this is so. Anne Perry has nailed Victorian England so it’s not surprising she’s written a few Christmas novellas which hit the spot at this time of the year.
A Christmas Grace features Inspector Pitt’s sister-in-law, Emily Radley. She’s Charlotte’s sister, in case you’ve forgotten, and as Christmas nears she’s looking forward to a round of social engagements where she can wear her new ballgown. Then she receives a letter. Her Aunt Susannah is very ill, probably dying, and she’s all alone. Charlotte has bronchitis so it’s left to Emily to abandon the invitations on the mantelpiece and trek to her aunt’s cottage in a remote town near Galway, Ireland.
All too soon it appears that there is something on Aunt Susannah’s mind – a mystery concerning the death of a young sailor, taken in by the village following a shipwreck. Weeks after the lad’s rescue, he mysteriously drowned and the village has been languishing in the years following as if cursed by the unexplained death. Soon after Emily’s arrival, a storm strikes the coastline causing the loss of another ship. History looks set to repeat itself unless Emily can discover what happened the first time.
A Christmas Grace was just the ticket as a yuletide read. There’s enough mystery to keep you interested plus a wealth of wild coastal Irish atmosphere to create a superb setting. Suspects begin to appear as Emily wins the trust of the villagers and gets them talking, and the plot builds to a dramatic finale, as you’d expect from Anne Perry.
And where would a Christmas story be without a moral? This one is to do with loyalty, acceptance and forgiveness as Emily gets to the bottom of things and does a bit of soul-searching too. Why has she neglected her lovely aunt for so long, a relative cast out by the family for marrying a Catholic? She also has to roll her sleeves up and do a bit of housework, a far cry from her cosy life in London. She’d been a little ungracious when first summoned to her aunt’s cottage, but will go home a wiser person.
So along with the turkey, the crackers and champagne, I might be adding a new tradition to my Christmas: the Anne Perry Christmas novella.