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Perry takes an odd assortment of characters through the twisted alleys of London's underworld, where class distinctions are blurred by the smoke of opium pipes and the sale of every kind of depravity known to man. When James Wentworth requests the assistance of his friend, Harry Rathbone, in locating his dissolute son, Lucien, from the sure self-destruction of his vices, it is but ten days until Christmas. A gentleman of some refinement, Rathbone turns to Hester Monk's medical clinic for suggestions on how best to conduct his search. The clinic visit yields the scrappy Squeaky Robinson, a former brothel-keeper, and an enigmatic slum doctor, Crow. The unlikely trio descends into the London's warren of tunnels, a cornucopia of perversions and drugs for anyone with the price of admission.

Perry's Victorian London shimmers with Christmas cheer in streets bedecked with sparkling lights, below a bleak network of alleys and tunnels where Lucien is lost among the bodies of those who seek oblivion. Bessie, a teenager familiar with this underground maze, joins the entourage searching for a man who doesn't want to be found. They hear talk of Sadie, a beautiful woman who sparkles with manic energy, captivating the distracted Lucien; and the Shadow Man, a dark figure who rules a kingdom of vice and addiction, who decides who will enter and who will leave, who is useful and who must die. In this brutal place, Lucien is the quarry, but Rathbone, Squeaky, Crow and Bessie are the prey of a monster who feeds on the confusion of innocents.

This is certainly an unusual Christmas mystery, but one that contrasts the two worlds of London society, the fancy homes and joyful celebrations of the wealthy and the damp, hopeless streets where poverty and crime coexist and depravity thrives unchecked. Three eccentric personalities- and Bessie- make for an interesting adventure, class, experience and skill reduced to a common denominator, humanity. An unlikely group, joined in common goal. Luan Gaines/2010.
22 comments29 of 31 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
VINE VOICEon December 8, 2010
First Sentence: Henry Rathbone leaned a little farther forward in his armchair and regarded his visitor gravely.

Henry Rathbone is asked by a good friend to find his son, Lucian. Lucian has been lost in the world of gambling, drugs and dangerous sex. Although Henry gives his word to find Lucian, this is a world about which Henry has no knowledge. With the help of Squeaky Robinson, former brother-keeper; Crow, an unlicensed doctor who works in the slums, and Bessie, a brave teen who lives on the edges of that dark world, the four set out to fulfill Henry's promise.

Anne Perry's Christmas novellas are my annual gift to myself. They allow me to re-visit Victorian England, as she so accurately displays it, visit the secondary characters in her Monk and Pitt series and read a book with a subtle Christmas message that doesn't preach or push. While this year's book may not have ended up being my favorite so far, as it is very dark, it once again demonstrates just what a fine writer is Perry.

Perry creates characters about whom you really care and she creates them from all walks of life. She truly demonstrates that it's not one's social or economic status that defines them, but what kind of person they are and the philosophies that define them. Henry talks about friendship and Perry quantifies it in a way we each can understand. She talks, though her characters, about the ingratitude of those who have, and how relevant is that to today, and shares her observations on homeliness, again without preaching.

This is not at all a sweet, light Christmas story. Perry takes us from the home of wealth to places no one should ever have to go amongst people no one would ever want to meet. Parts are dark, gritty and vile. This is a tale of facing the devil and making a decision, of holding to your promises. There is redemption but there is also a question left open at the end. It is classic Perry and it is worth reading.

A CHRISTMAS ODYSSEY (Hist Mys-Henry Rathbone/Squeaky Robinson-England-1865) - Good
Perry, Anne - 8th in series
Ballantine Books, ©2010, US Hardcover - ISBN: 9780345518583
0Comment11 of 12 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on October 27, 2010
A Christmas Odyssey is the eighth in Anne Perry's series of Christmas novelettes, and it is a worthy addition to the list. As usual, a peripheral character is the protagonist--in this case Henry Rathbone, retired mathematician and father of Sir Oliver Rathbone. He is assisted by Squeaky Robinson, a reformed criminal who is now the accountant for Hester Monk's clinic, and Crow, a man who is "almost a doctor." They descend into what seems to be the depths of Hell itself searching for Lucien Wentworth, the son of an old and dear friend of Henry's, who has gone into a world of women, drink, drugs, and quite possibly violence. Bessie, a teenager very reminiscent of the Pitts' maid Gracie, joins them. Between Squeaky's & Crow's knowledge of the underworld and Bessie's expert guidance through the mazes of the underground world, they enable Henry to fulfill his quest and learn Lucien's fate.

The novel features some very intriguing characters. Sadie, the woman whom Lucien has followed deep into this violent world because of his obsession with her, is extremely beautiful, very alive, and most likely a cocaine addict. Mr. Ash is an odd figure, but Crow seems to be able to diagnose his physical condition. And there is the mysterious Mr. Shadwell, the "Shadow Man," who pulls the strings and controls Sadie. He will stop at nothing to hold onto his power.

One cannot help but like, admire, and respect Henry. Squeaky is an interesting character who comes to appreciate his newfound respectability when it seems he may lose it along with his life. I hope to see Crow again.

It would have been nice to know Bessie's fate after the book ended. I know I would have hoped that Squeaky would rescue her and that Hester would find some work, and possibly some education, for this very bright, very endearing young woman. I can only hope.
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on December 13, 2012
I'm so glad I didn't purchase this book. I borrowed it from our library and I'm even happier that I didn't purchase it as a gift. The story was disappointing and quite dreadful. I kept reading hoping that things would change but every page from start to finish was about drug addicts and the depravity and dreadful descriptions weren't much fun to read about. I was truly disappointed at this effort by Ms Perry. I've read all her books and they certainly have changed since her earlier ones and definitely not for the better. This will be my last read from her.
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on December 20, 2010
The only thing Christmasy about this book is that it takes place in December and is cold. A few hansom drivers say Merry Christmas to each other. Absolutely no character development. Seems to be written just to cash in on a Christmas title. DO NOT waste your time nor money.
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on April 8, 2011
I'm not so naive as to believe that Christmas is all sweetness and light--I'm aware of the horrors that humans inflict, whatever the time of year. I do, however, believe that Christmas represents hope and the possibility of redemption. Although this book purports to embrace those philosophies, I found the dreary and sometimes horrifying descriptions--which other readers accurately described as sordid, depressing, etc.--to be troubling and not what I wanted to read in a book associated with Christmas. And, although I'm familiar with the technique of irony, regarding the book's stark descriptions detailing the darker side of human nature, I found it ludicrous that the cover portrayed a quaint, cozy Christmas scene. As already noted, a few "Happy Christmas" wishes do not a yuletide story make.
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on January 2, 2011
I own all of the William Monk series, many of the Pitt books, and Anne's wonderful series on World War I. How she could have written, much less published, this book is beyond me. There are only so many steps leading down to levels of depravity - the repetition was inexcusable. And to market it the book as being a Christmas story was unforgiveable. It was one of the worst books I have ever read.
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on December 7, 2010
Anne Perry is an author that I can depend upon for an interesting story and I have truly enjoyed her Christmas offerings in the past. While I haven't read all of them, the ones I have, have been good. This time out, we meet James Wentworth as he is talking with his friend Henry Rathbone in the days leading up to Christmas. Wentworth's adult son (Lucien) has disappeared into the streets of London to pursue drugs and passion. Having become so caught up in his body's desires, he is lost to his father and the affluent/comfortable life he should be living. Henry Rathbone agrees to try to find Lucien and return him to his family. The story that unfolds involves this search and Mr. Rathbone enlists a few other characters along the way to help him in the search. Once dead bodies are reported and massive amounts of blood found, the group's inquiries take a darker turn as they try to unravel the mysteries of who has been killed and by whom. Is Lucien among the dead or is he still alive?

This is a hard review to write since I have very conflicted feelings about it. The writing that reflects the experiences in the London underworld is excellent. The author definitely has the ability to draw the picture in the reader's eye and allowed me to "see" what was happening. I have to politely disagree with the other reviewers that the novel does a good job of contrasting the upper-crust experience and the underclass/criminal element of the time. I would estimate that ninety percent of the novel is dedicated to the underclass theme and searching for Lucien in desolate, horrible places. Only about ten percent is spent setting up the narrative with a few brief mentions (really only a few sentences) dedicated to describing the contrasting world of the well-to-do. There are only glimpses at that world after the initial pages.

While I don't always need uplifting, Norman Rockwell-type Christmas stories, this one was very dark. Hopelessness is everywhere - drugs, alcohol, and women. It also really has nothing to do with Christmas other than the story is set in that time of year. A few references are made to the holiday decorations of London, but other than an occasional reference, it isn't that relevant to the story and the narrative could have taken place anytime in winter as well as these days prior to Christmas.

Overall, nicely written which gives it a 4-star but the dark nature of the narrative when marketed as a holiday read brings it to a 3-star in my opinion.

Note: This is really a novella versus a full length novel. It's less than 200 pages and the book itself is small.
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on October 31, 2010
I have been reading Anne Perry's Christmas novellas since she started bringing them out. I always enjoy them because they offer wonderful vignettes of Victorian Christmases in colourful settings. This book is certainly different than the previous ones. It is set right in London around Christmas time. It is not a simple little murder mystery since we don't find any bodies until almost the end of the book. What we do get is an up close and personal look at the Victorian England Underworld. And now I know where that word came from as the people in this book are truly in the underworld as they live and conduct their business and follow their sexual fantasies underneath London in subterranean tunnels. We have Oliver Rathbone's father Henry and his motley group trying to find Henry Rathbone's friend's son who has disappeared into this world for a number of weeks. I really enjoyed the book as I do all of Anne Perry's work. I recommend these little books to anyone who enjoys holiday mysteries.
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on December 2, 2012
I have the books in this Christmas series and look forward to reading one every year as part of my holiday preparations. I wish I had read the reviews before I purchased "Christmas Odyssey". It is a dark story filled with sexual deparvity. I did not like it at all. If I could give it zero stars I would.
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