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by Anne Perry
Ballantine, November 2022
209 pages
ISBN: 0593359100

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

It's a week before Christmas and Dr. Crowe and his young assistant, Will "Scuff" Monk, are helping the poor at their river-front clinic in Victorian London. But Crowe can't forget a young woman—one of means—who ended up at his clinic nearly a year ago after a serious carriage accident. Crowe had saved her life, and he and Eliza "Ellie" Hollister had become close while he cared for her.

He purposely passes by her house on his return from a patient's house—and does see Ellie. It's not a happy moment, though. She is in an argument with her fiancé, Paul Dolan, and Crowe sees Dolan slap her. Ellie doesn't seem happy with the impending marriage, and Crowe quickly figures out it must have to do with the fathers—Ellie's father, Albert Hollister, and Paul's father, Silas Dolan, are in a business arrangement. And, coincidentally, there was a recent arson fire at one of Hollister's warehouses, which not only burned Dolan's inventory but killed a night watchman. Is Ellie's betrothal part of an insurance fraud and blackmail situation? And can Crowe save her from this fate?

Crowe begins to investigate, questioning those he knows among the Thames river-front. Scuff, the adopted son of William and Hester Monk (from Perry's long-running series), also joins Crowe in the investigation. As a former mudlark, an orphan on the streets, Scuff can also easily talk to others on the river-front.

Although this is a short novella that can be read in a few hours, Perry has packed a lot of characterization, tension and warmth into the story. She writes, "For Crowe, life was about a future that one could change, not a past one could not." This philosophy drives both men to the truth—and to a Christmas that will change their futures.

This is one of Perry's better Christmas novellas from recent years. If you want a quick feel-good holiday story, this one certainly delivers.

§ Lourdes Venard is an editor for an education nonprofit and a copy editing instructor with the University of California, San Diego. She lives in Washington State.

Reviewed by Lourdes Venard, November 2022

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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