Monday, November 12, 2012

A CHRISTMAS GARLAND by Anne Perry








“Do you believe in God?”

Narraway was about to answer automatically, but then he stopped. Peterson deserved better than that. Narraway himself needed more than a trite response.

“Well I certainly believe in hell,” he said slowly selecting his words. “So I suppose I believe in heaven, too. And if there’s a heaven and a hell, then I think there must be a God. All this is unbearable if there isn’t.”

-----

Anne Perry’s A Christmas Garland is an unusual locked room mystery.

It is two weeks before Christmas, 1857. The British Empire is falling apart. Rebels have attacked the garrison at Cawnpore, India. They have brutally killed a massive number of people.

A prisoner in Cawnpore escaped from a compound locked only from the outside. He told the rebels how to ambush the corps sent to save Cawnpore. The rebels killed the entire rescue corps (save for one man). Then they killed many in Cawnpore.

Colonel Latimer assigns greenhorn Lieutenant Victor Narraway to defend the man accused of opening the prison door, killing the guard, allowing the escape, and facilitating the murder of the rescue corps.  

To further complicate matters, Narraway has a day and one-half to prepare for the trial. Besides that, Colonel Latimer and most of the soldiers want Narraway to stage a sham defense. They want British justice done, but done with a predetermined outcome.

The first half of this short book is Narraway’s brief investigation. The second half is the trial. Along the way, Narraway (and most of the people in Cawnpore) despair. They question God.

One child has the hope to create a simple paper chain, a Christmas garland. When the child gives Narraway the garland, Narraway finds God in an otherwise barren Christmas season.

For me, Anne Perry’s annual Christmas mystery has become a tradition. The last few years I’ve tried to read the new one every year.

Puzzle-mystery fans should find this book to be a joy. I found the history interesting. I liked the discussion of how we relate to God when the world is crumbling around us. The mystery was a clever mystery too.

Anne Perry is a deceptively brilliant writer. Even what I see to be her lesser efforts have things of interest for me.

It is not a bad tradition--starting every Christmas season with the new Anne Perry.

No comments: