A Christmas Hope

In our first overseas Army assignment in France, my husband’s boss’s wife took my acclimation from Southern girl to military wife as a personal mission. One memorable day, Mrs. Coleman took me to the opening of a Picasso exhibit at the Louvre and then to lunch that included my first authentic French onion soup.

Another part of her self-assigned mission kept me in reading material. Another day, I put down my book when she showed up at my door. She asked what I was reading. I explained that I was really wrapped up in a biography of a ground-breaking woman doctor for women in India.

Mrs. Coleman looked at me in amazement and said, “Oh, I never read anything that counts.” She handed  me the book she had brought, introducing me to Agatha Christie. While I continued to enjoy books that “counted,” I became a real Christie fan.

I thought about Mrs. Coleman while I read A Christmas Hope by Anne Perry. She would have loved it. This Christmas mystery, set in Victorian England, begins with a murder at a Christmas party. Claudine Burroughs, the protagonist, is more interested in her charity work at a clinic for prostitutes and needy women than in her proper place in society. She sets out to vindicate the accused murderer.

In classic murder mystery fashion, the accused poet Dai Tregarron enjoys a reputation of being a hard living drunk, but Claudine believes someone more respectable is the real perpetrator of the crime. Victorian England mores, a loveless marriage, and a girl who reminds her of her younger self complicate the plot.

This book won’t “count” any more than an Agatha Christie if you are looking to impress a crowd of intellectuals, but it has its place. A Christmas Hope in book form or on your Kindle might shorten your perception of the length of a trip on a cramped plane and maybe even make you forget the kid kicking your seat from behind.