London, 1868. Claudine Burroughs is trapped in a loveless marriage to a man whose overriding interests in money and prestige are the farthest from her own. The only happiness she has in her life is her volunteer work in a woman's clinic run by Hester Monk.
Mandatory attendance at a yuletide gala holds only one bright spot: a brief conversation with poet Dai Tregarron, but when Tregarron is found outside standing over the body of a prostitute, he is quickly branded a murderer and must run before he's hustled off to jail. Try as she will, Claudine can't overcome the feeling that her upper-class acquaintances are closing ranks to conceal the real killer. There seems to be little she can do to solve the crime, but Claudine must try.
Several years ago when I read very little crime fiction, I did indulge in both of Anne Perry's historical mystery series featuring William Monk and Charlotte Pitt. After a gap this long, I was interested in sampling one of her Christmas mysteries, so I was happy to receive a copy of A Christmas Hope through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program.
It goes without saying that Perry is completely at home in the Victorian world, and the strongest part of this book is watching Claudine strive to solve a murder when her life is so strictly circumscribed and she is surrounded by disapproving acquaintances and a hateful husband. To me, the miracle of A Christmas Hope isn't that a man's life can be saved, but that Claudine's level-headedness and altruism haven't been totally destroyed over the years. That, in itself, is a triumph.
This latest Christmas mystery is a must for Anne Perry fans, and those who are unfamiliar with her books will be rewarded with a good, solid historical mystery.
A Christmas Hope by Anne Perry
Ballantine Books © 2013
Hardcover, 208 pages
Historical Mystery, #11 Christmas mystery
Source: LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program