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Narraway's First Investigation,
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This review is from: A Christmas Garland: A Novel (Hardcover)
Christmas comes at the end of October for me with the arrival of Anne Perry's latest Christmas novel; it's a present I can't wait to open. And A Christmas Garland lives up to its promise. As I read the book, two movies came to mind for two different reasons. The first was Hart's War, which starred Bruce Willis and Colin Farrell. Set in a prisoner of war camp in World War II, the movie features a trial in which a young, green lieutenant (Farrell) is forced by the colonel (Willis) to defend a prisoner in a court martial. The similarities between the Lt. Hart and 20-year-old Lt. Victor Narraway, are evident. Neither was in the army by choice, as Hart had been drafted and Narraway's father had forced him to join.
Four Feathers came to mind because it is also a tale of British soldiers in a hostile land--the Sudan, in this case--where they are not wanted and are badly outnumbered by the natives, who want nothing more than to kill them all and take back their country. The soldiers in Christmas Garland also wonder why they are here in this alien land "for queen and country." There have been horrible atrocities including the savage deaths of the women and children that the soldiers and the men of the East Indian Company have brought with them.
Lieutenant Narraway must defend Corporal John Tallis, a medical orderly who is accused of freeing a Sikh prisoner; the prisoner killed his guard, also a Sikh, and fled to the rebels to betray a patrol of which he had inside knowledge. Nine of the ten in the patrol died. Tallis has no motive. He is only on trial because he is the last man standing, so to speak. He was alone and unseen at the time of the escape, so he had no provable alibi. Narraway believes him to be innocent, as Tallis proclaims himself to be, but how can he prove it? But Narraway is a very persistent man who will not rest until he has done all he can to save Tallis and to serve justice. It is his first step on his path to his career in the police.
This is a book I was truly unable to put down until I had finished it. I felt pity for Tallis and for Narraway as well, who might have been in over his head. Complicating matters is the fact that everyone wants Tallis to hang, and they want it done quickly. To make things worse, Narraway had been at school with the major's younger brother, and they had disliked each other immensely.
Although this book is quite different from most of the other Christmas novels in that it has an exotic setting and is far from the drawing rooms of England, it is as fascinating as the others. I strongly advise reading it; I know you will enjoy it and will learn something as well.