"Silent Nights"

Silent Nights by Anne Perry
(This book includes two of Anne Perry's Christmas mysteries: A Christmas Beginning and A Christmas Grace)

I've never been a fan of mysteries, but I am becoming a fan of Anne Perry. So far I've only read some of her Christmas novels and Tathea, a fantasy. I enjoy the victorian settings of her Christmas stories and I like the way she writes. A Victorian mystery is going to have drama of course, but she doesn't go overboard, at least not in the ones I've read. I'd like to get started on one of her series, which include a series about Detective William Monk and another about Detective Thomas Pitt, both also set in the Victorian period. She has eight Christmas novels of which I've read three, a series of World War I novels, two fantasy novels and several others set in various times and places. She first published in 1979.

 A Christmas Beginning
For me this was a "relief" book. I'm also reading "Empire Of Illusion", a very serious look at the decline of North American civilization. It's both fascinating and alarming and I'm only digesting one chapter at a time. A Christmas Beginning is the book I turn to when I've finished a chapter of "Empire". It's light reading, well written and just plain enjoyable. I do so enjoy a story in which people treat each other, and speak to each other, with respect and thoughtfulness.There just isn't a whole lot of that going around these days, so it's a great escape from reality when I need it.

The characters are fairly well written. There isn't a lot of time to develop them in a novella, but I find Perry's characters quite believable. They have strengths and flaws to round them out and we do learn a bit more about them as the story proceeds.

The story itself is about a London Detective who finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation on a small island off the coast of Wales. His "city" ways are not always appreciated, but local authorities have never dealt with a crime of this magnitude before so they enlist his help. I won't reveal any more of the plot except to say that it's called "A Christmas Beginning" because it takes place at Christmas time and the story does end with a new beginning for some of the characters. It's not really a Chrstmassy book in the way other stories might be. The mystery and the characters are the focus, not Christmas.

A Christmas Grace
Of the two stories contained in the book this one is my favorite, probably because it's set in Ireland. I've never been there but that doesn't stop me loving it and even sometimes longing to be there. Not so much the cities, but the countryside, the cliffs, the pounding surf and salt spray. I do love wild places and everything I read about Ireland makes me think I'd find lots of wild and windy places there.

This story is about a young woman who, while preparing Christmas for her husband and children, gets a letter asking her to go to the bedside of her dying aunt in Ireland. She goes reluctantly, and her experience there changes, and matures, her. She becomes friends with some of the local people and uncovers a mystery that needs solving, which of course she will do in the nick of time.

I find Anne Perry's mysteries a bit anti-climatic. There is a good build up to keep the reader guessing, but once the truth is uncovered it all comes to a quick end. There is no surprise or "aha" moment. At the end of one of these stories, I had to go back to find out who the criminal was; I had read it but the story was wrapped up so quickly I wasn't sure what had happened.

I will read lots more of Anne Perry's books because sometimes I just want something easy. I love the language of her books. I find it difficult to find books that are easy to read, yet written well, using a decent vocabulary. I'm looking forward to many more.



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