A Christmas Message
Anne Perry’s fans always look forward to her Victorian-era holiday mysteries. They might do well to skip this one. In the 14th holiday novella, Perry tells the story of Victor Narraway and his new wife, Vespasia, who are on holiday in Palestine. When an acquaintance is murdered, they discover that the dead man entrusted them with a mysterious parchment which they are to take to Jerusalem and deliver on Christmas Eve.
The optimum word in A Christmas Message is “message.” Unfortunately, the message is long and overly philosophical and sucks the life out of any suspense the story might have had. Some of the dialogue is quasi-mystical and confusing. The plot wanders and is weak, the denouement is flat, and the ending is abrupt. Worse, the religious ponderings are repetitive and turgid. The book has the feel of something written quickly to fulfill obligations. A saving grace is that Perry writes beautifully of the Narraways, an older couple whose love and tenderness for each other is put to the test during their frightening train trip to Jerusalem. Perhaps next year’s holiday book will be written under a brighter star.