Monday, December 10, 2012

A Christmas Odyssey - Anne Perry

A festive story of hope and redemption emerging from the depths of Victorian society.
1864, and on a bitter December night in Victorian London, one man longs for a Christmas miracle. The city is preparing for the holidays yet James Wentworth is unable to focus on anything other than the disappearance of his wayward son, Lucien. In desperation, he turns to his old friend Sir Henry Rathbone for help. Rathbone finds assistance in the shape of reformed criminal Squeaky Robinson and the enigmatic Doctor Crow and as the group's investigations take them deeper into the seedy underbelly of the capital they uncover a squalid world of illicit pleasures and a trail that leads them closer to the man they seek. But as they get nearer to their quarry, tales also begin emerge of Lucien's violent tendencies, his consuming obsession with a dangerous young woman and the disturbing Shadow Man. Can they bring Lucien home alive and if so, will it be a grave mistake for all concerned?

I love Anne Perry's Christmas stories. She is a wonderful writer and her characters always come alive. Besides she masters the Victorian setting like no one and it is not difficult to imagine in our heads the places that she describes. I found this one a bit different from her usual stories because it deals mostly with London's underworld and I wasn't familiar with most of the characters. In these stories she usually uses secondary characters from her other series, in this case the Monk series.

"Squeaky" Robinson, "Dr" Crow and the young Bessie are an odd set of characters that join Sir Henry Rathbone in trying to find his friend's son Lucien in time for him to spend Christmas with his family. Lucien has fallen prey of the worst vices and has disappeared in the city's shadiest neighbourhoods.

While they look for him we are treated to a tour of the London tunnels where every vice and perversion can easily be bought, where addicts beg for opium or cocaine and are kept under their dealers’ command. Perry's brilliant writing means that we can really imagine what it must have been to visit those places and meet such characters. Their search quickly turns into a murder mystery that they must solve before finding Lucien. And nothing guarantees that he will want, or that he will be allowed to, return home.

Although Perry's books are never light reads I found this one a bit darker than usual. I also missed not having a strong female character in the lead and I think that may have contributed to make it an even darker read. There's also the fact that here we are really shown the contrast between those living miserably on the streets and the affluent world of Sir Henry Rathbone. As with most of these Christmas stories it deals with guilt and an eventual redemption.

Although the story ends with a positive note there is no doubt that this is not your usual light and cosy Christmas read. It is, however, an interesting read and I did enjoy reading it.

Grade: 4/5

This counts for the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge

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