Monday, July 28, 2008

Guest Blog--Two Christmas Mysteries

Although it is July, I picked up two short novels from Anne Perry’s Christmas collection. I was looking for something short and easy to read after reading several books that were close to 400 pages long. Although both books are murder mysteries, they turned out to be delightful surprises and a pleasure to read.

I first started reading Anne Perry shortly after she began writing the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt mysteries. In fact, I think the first novel I read was The Cater Street Hangman in which the characters are introduced. If I remember correctly, in this first book Charlotte is a little bit in love with her brother-in-law Dominic Corde. His wife (and Charlotte’s sister) becomes one of the hangman's victims.

In A Christmas Secret, Dominic Corde reappears as the protagonist. Following the death of his upper class wife, he decides to change his life dramatically and he studies for the ministry of the Church of England. With his new wife Clarice, Corde has come to take over the services of the church in a small country village while the regular vicar is on vacation. It doesn’t take too long for the couple to discover, though, that the Reverend Wynter never left home.

In the second novel, A Christmas Beginning, the main character is Superintendent Runcorn from Scotland Yard. He was the superintendent with whom Monk had conflict. Monk is the featured detective in another of Perry’s series of mysteries. He eventually left Scotland Yard partly because of the problems with his superior officer Runcorn.

It is a more introspective Runcorn that we encounter in A Christmas Beginning. He is on vacation in Wales when the sister of the local vicar is found murdered in the churchyard. Melisande Ewart and her brother John Barclay, from another story, are staying in the district. Because of the tender feelings that Runcorn has for Melisande, he agrees to become involved in searching for the killer.

If you are looking for a gift this year for an Anne Perry fan, I recommend giving one of her five Christmas novels. I assume that the other three she has so far published are as easy to read as these two.

I haven’t read any Anne Perry novels lately, and I suspect it was because I began to find her books a little too didactic. The stories plodded a bit, and the moral judgments became too heavy for me. However, these short novels don’t have time to get bogged down and are a pleasurable read for a gloomy afternoon or one at the beach. Christmas snow always seems so delightful when you are sitting on a sand chair by the ocean.

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