The year is 1900, and Victor Narraway is giving his wife, Vespasia, an unforgettable Christmas present a trip to Jerusalem. Read more...
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The year is 1900, and Victor Narraway is giving his wife, Vespasia, an unforgettable Christmas present a trip to Jerusalem. Vespasia is enchanted by the exotic landscape of Palestine, and charmed by a fellow traveler the Narraways meet at their hotel in Jaffa. But when the man is murdered over a torn piece of ancient parchment he was taking to Jerusalem, Victor and Vespasia risk their lives to finish his mission and deliver the puzzling document to its home. Pursued by a shadowy figure with evil intent, they embark on a dangerous yet ultimately enlightening pilgrimage to the holy city, where the mysterious message on the parchment may finally be revealed.
Rich in suspense and wonder, A Christmas Message is at once a breathtaking adventure story and a poignant meditation on faith and spirituality.
Praise for A Christmas Message
A strangely intriguing mystery handled neatly by the wonderfully capable Victor Narraway] and his new wife, Lady] Vespasia. Library Journal
Praise for the Christmas novels of Anne Perry
Perry s Victorian-era holiday mysteries are] an annual treat. The Wall Street Journal
A Christmas Escape
Rivals the classic murder mysteries of Dame Agatha Christie . . . The suspense is built up so well. Bookreporter
A New York Christmas
A thoroughly enjoyable mystery set against the wonderful historical backdrop of 1904 New York City at Christmastime. Library Journal (starred review)
A Christmas Hope
Very much recommended . . . a wonderful story. Historical Novel Review
A Christmas Garland
In Anne Perry s gifted hands, the puzzle plays out brilliantly. Greensboro News & Record
A Christmas Homecoming
Could have been devised by Agatha Christie . . . Perry is] a modern master. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette"
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-09-12
- Reviewer: Staff
Metaphysical concerns weigh down bestseller Perrys unsatisfying 14th Christmas-themed mystery (after 2015s A Christmas Escape). In 1900, Victor Narraway, the former head of Londons Special Branch, gives his wife, Vespasia, a trip to Jerusalem, a present whose spiritual resonance surprises her. On a stopover in Jaffa, the pair encounter a kind old man at their hotel, but when they return to their lodging on the following evening, Victor finds the man with his throat slit and his room ransacked. Meanwhile, Victor discovers a piece of parchment in his jacket pocket evidently from the dead man. Folded within the parchment is an unsigned note beseeching Victor to deliver it to House of Bread on the Via Dolorosa by Christmas Eve. The Narraways feel morally obliged to fulfill the request, a choice that places their lives in danger from a shadowy menace. The heavy-handed spiritual struggle the couple subsequently endures leaves the reader with the sense that the important themes Perry explores would have been better suited to a longer work. Agent: Donald Maass, Donald Maass Literary. (Nov.)
Whodunit: No after-dinner snooze with these holiday mysteries
The season’s best suspense novels share a striking commonality: The main characters are saddled with names that practically guarantee choruses of snickers behind their backs, from Flavia de Luce to shady character Junior Bender.
SMALL SLEUTH, BIG CASE
First up is Alan Bradley’s witty and slyly charming Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d, the latest outing for reader-favorite Flavia, a Nancy Drew-esque sleuth in rural England. Summoned home for the holidays from a snooty boarding school, Flavia wastes no time in becoming embroiled in a rather grotesque murder, in which the victim has been crucified, upside down, in the manner of St. Paul. Flavia is a precocious child, with a talent for amusing and insightful description; in a note about her detecting methodology, she points out that her mind works in a very un-Sherlock Holmes-like manner: “In reality, analytical minds such as my own are forever shooting wildly off in all directions simultaneously. It’s like joyously hitting jelly with a sledgehammer.” Be that as it may, it works for her, and generates more than its fair share of entertainment for the reader as well.
Anne Perry’s A Christmas Message is an altogether more portentous sort of holiday adventure. Set in Palestine around the turn of the 20th century, the story combines elements of religious mystery, highbrow Brit romance (understated, naturally), a soupçon of the supernatural and a denouement that will hang in your memory long after you have turned the final page. Lady Vespasia Narraway and her commoner (but by no means common) husband are on holiday in the Holy Land when they meet an enigmatic, elderly man who turns up dead shortly after entrusting the Narraways with a piece of parchment “upon which the future of mankind depends.” They must deliver it to Jerusalem, but there are forces in play dedicated to stopping the parchment from reaching its anointed destination. Perry’s prose reads like a Victorian-era mystery, and her characters have that larger-than-life quality that permeated so many classic films from the golden age of cinema.
Two women, P.D. James and Ruth Rendell, shared the mantle of “doyenne of British suspense” until James’ death two years ago, and Rendell’s just a few months later. Fortunately for James’ legions of fans, there are some literary delights left in the vaults. The Mistletoe Murder: And Other Stories, a small collection of her holiday-themed short stories, is what you might expect from James. There are overtones of Agatha Christie, albeit with a more modern sensibility; the perfect prose you have come to anticipate and admire; and red herrings and twists galore, often up to and including the final sentence of each story. And the focal point of the book, the novella for which the volume is named, is a classic variation on the locked-room mystery with a slick last-possible-moment twist that surprised and tickled even this jaded reader.
TOP PICK IN MYSTERY
And then we have the antithesis of the classic Christmas story, Timothy Hallinan’s gripping yet wickedly funny Fields Where They Lay. Burglar and underworld sleuth Junior Bender has found precious little joy in Joyeux Noël over the course of his life. This year promises to be no different: Junior’s girlfriend has left him, with few words of explanation and no forwarding address; a Russian mafia dude has hired him to look into a crime and has made it clear that failure on Junior’s part will be treated most harshly; and Junior still has not been able to find the perfect gift for his teenage daughter. His investigation takes him to over-the-hill Edgerton Mall, whose main claim to Christmas fame is “two Santas, no waiting.” The anchor superstores have fled, leaving the mall with a small contingent of struggling mom-and-pop shops. In the midst of all this, Junior finds an unlikely friend and ally, a kindly Jewish Santa Claus by the name of Shlomo, who shares yet another mystery with Junior, a poignant one dating back to the final days of World War II. And somewhere amid all this suspense and uncertainty lies the true meaning of Christmas, assuming that Junior can stay alive long enough to see it.