A Christmas Promise
Anne Perry
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Buy *A Christmas Promise* by Anne Perry online

A Christmas Promise
Anne Perry
208 pages
October 2009
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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“The week before Christmas, the smell and taste of it were in the air, a kind of excitement, an urgency about everything.” (p. 3)
A Christmas Promise recreates the delightful “urgency” of Christmas in 1883’s East End London. Thirteen-year-old heroine Gracie Phipps is known to fans of Anne Perry’s Charlotte and Thomas Pitt mystery novels. In this tale, she has not yet met her future employers and still lives with her hardworking Gran.

One day just before Christmas, Gracie finds a sad and lonely eight-year-old girl who appears to be lost. Minnie Maude Mudway explains to Gracie that her uncle Alf has been murdered. He was a “rag an’ bone man” (p.22) whose cart and donkey have also disappeared. Minnie is determined to find Charlie, Alf’s donkey. Gracie is exasperated by the strange story - “Why would Minnie Maude be worrying about a donkey that had wandered off, if her uncle had really been killed?” (p. 6) Although she wants to help poor little Minnie, Gracie must tend to her chores on the day they meet. However early the next morning, Gracie feels compelled to help young Minnie solve the mystery.

As their search for the donkey Charlie continues, Gracie and Minnie start to uncover the story of Alf’s violent death. On the day of the murder, Jimmie Quick, another rag-and-bone man, asked Alf to take his route. The girls discover that Alf picked up a golden casket that day which has disappeared along with Alf’s cart and donkey. What was in the golden casket? Was the casket meant for Jimmy? Could this be the reason Alf was killed?

Gracie and Minnie encounter a trail of intriguing characters in their search for the truth about Alf’s murder: Mr. Balthasar, a mysterious but wise shopkeeper; Monday the street sweeper; Florrie the peddler; and Cob, the chestnut seller. When Minnie Maude is kidnapped by the murderer, Gracie seeks Balthasar’s help to save her. The solution to the mystery lies in the tangled web of London’s underworld.

Anne Perry once again pens a thrilling and exciting Victorian Christmas novel. In A Christmas Promise, the seventh volume in Perry’s Christmas series, she captures the hustle and bustle of preparations for Christmas in the late 19th century. Her characters may not have a lot of money, but they have a zest for life that transcends economic boundaries. Alf is known by his friends and family as someone who loved to laugh – and to make others laugh. His death leaves a void for Minnie which cannot be filled.

Although this is a mystery novel about a violent crime, Anne Perry also captures the spirit of the season:

“It would be Christmas in two days. There would be bells, and singing, lots of lights, people would wear their best clothes, and ribbons, eat the best food, be nice to one another, laugh a lot. Then the next day it would all be over, until another year.

The good things ought to stay; someone ought to make them stay. The dresses and the food didn’t matter, but the laughing did…”
(p. 115-116)
Another interesting aspect of the novel is Perry’s focus on the importance of literacy. Gracie tells readers that
“[s]he wished she could write, then they could be kept safe longer… One day she would learn, then she’d be able to keep every idea that mattered, forever. That would be like owning the whole world!” (p. 88)
As a memorable gift for the mystery lover on your Christmas list this year, you can’t go wrong with Anne Perry’s A Christmas Promise.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Myra Junyk, 2009

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