Reviewed December 27, 2019, from a library book.
Ballantine Books, 2019. 193 pages.
Reading an Anne Perry Christmas Mystery has become a fun tradition for me, one I didn’t get to indulge in when I was on the Newbery committee, and this year put off because of Cybils reading. So I read this one a couple days after Christmas, but it still gave me a nice cozy and short mystery to put me in a vacation mood. Today the weather was even warm enough, I read most of it out on my balcony with my feet up. Maybe that doesn’t feel like winter – but it does feel like vacation.
I like the way you can tell these characters have appeared in her regular series books, at least as secondary characters. A Christmas Gathering featured Lady Vespasia and her new husband Victor Narroway. Vespasia is a relative of Anne Perry's character Charlotte, who married the policeman Thomas Pitt. Vespasia knows that her husband has come to this Christmas party at a country house to do some work for the government, connected with his former position as head of the Special Branch, but he has not told her exactly what he is going to do.
As for Victor, he’s planning to meet a courier and take a package with misleading information to be passed to the Germans as genuine. But the job reminds him of a similar case twenty years ago, when he was much younger and the courier he was supposed to protect was murdered. He hasn’t told Vespasia of that failure that haunts him.
But somebody knows about the intended delivery of the package. Is a young lady courier going to die again?
I like the way that besides the mystery, this book also looks at a marriage late in life, and the motivation for keeping secrets from someone you love. As with many of Anne Perry’s Christmas novels, the importance of forgiveness and mercy toward those we love is emphasized.