Anne Perry's "A Christmas Message" reaffirmed why I love her books. Her ability to weave romance, mystery, history and the spiritual in an intelligent absorbing narrative is unsurpassed. She is unafraid to depict historical events that other authors avoid, and her characters age. Since I also age, it is refreshing to find protagonists on the far side of 40.
Lady Vespasia Cumming-Gould and her husband of two years, Victor Narraway, are celebrating a cold Christmas in 1900 Palestine. A mysterious new acquaintance, an old man with powerful stories, is murdered after sharing a dinner with the couple. Shortly after finding his body, Narraway finds a note with a scrap of parchment that the old man had secretly placed in his coat. The note exhorts him to be at the "House of Bread" in Jerusalem on Christmas Eve. Although neither Vespasia or Narraway are particularly religious, they both know this is a message that cannot be ignored. As they make their way to Jerusalem by train, they are joined by Benedict, a kind man, with little memory, who somehow knows their mission but worries that a very dark character will stop them, just as this dark character has stopped the old man. Benedict also explains that in Hebrew, "House of Bread" is "Beit Lechem" or Bethlehem.
As I read this book, I felt the cold of long-ago Jaffa, I smelled the spices of the middle east bazaar, and experienced the lonely isolation of the desert at night. Perry writes that: "The world is full of interest, and beauty. The span of one life offers barely a taste of it: just sufficient to know that it is infinitely precious." This is true, and the world is even more interesting and more beautiful when viewed through a Perry novel like "A Christmas Message."
(In return for an honest review, I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.)
Print Length: 176 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (November 1, 2016)
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Sold by: Random House LLC