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A Christmas Garland: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 30, 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 127 customer reviews
Book 10 of 11 in the Christmas Stories Series

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Hardcover, Deckle Edge, October 30, 2012
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Julian Fellowes's Belgravia by Julian Fellowes
"Julian Fellowes's Belgravia" by Julian Fellowes
From the creator and writer of Downton Abbey comes a grand historical novel, with hugely exciting twists and dramatic chapter endings. Learn more | See author page
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

When Lieutenant Victor Narraway arrives in Cawnpore, India, emotions are still raw from the 1857 Indian mutiny and the atrocities that rebels committed at the Bibighar. In addition, a prisoner, Dhuleep Singh, escaped, leading to the massacre of a British patrol. After an investigation, the army found that medical orderly Corporal John Tallis was the only man who didn’t have an alibi during the escape. Tallis is being tried as a traitor, and the 20-year-old Narraway is to handle his defense. The army wants the trial and execution held quickly, and the commanding officer doesn’t want Narraway making waves. Tallis, however, proclaims his innocence, and Narraway believes him. Narraway worries his inexperience will cost Tallis his life, but then with the help of two children, he cracks the case. This engaging historical mystery offers an introspective look at the character, Narraway, who will become the future boss of Thomas Pitt, star of Perry’s long-running series. Perry’s tenth Christmas novel is a winner. --Sue OBrien

Review

'Delightful ... The perfect gift for a whodunit addict who likes to curl up with a good book after Christmas lunch' Oxford Times 'This engaging historical mystery offers an introspective look at the character, Narraway, who will become the future boss of Thomas Pitt, star of Perry's long-running series. Perry's tenth Christmas novel is a winner' Booklist 'Perry avoids all of the mawkish pitfalls that are usually the hallmark of holiday books by choosing an unconventional setting and decidedly different approach. Rather than leaning on sentiment, she writes an honest, though somewhat grim, story that captures the essence of 19th-century India and the character of a compassionate man. A novel approach to an oft-explored subject, this tale will delight Perry's fans and bring her new ones' Kirkus Reviews 'A bite-sized mystery that could be fitted in after your Christmas lunch' Daily Telegraph --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Edition edition (October 30, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345530748
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345530745
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (127 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #711,175 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Luanne Ollivier on November 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I've been a fan of Anne Perry for a long time. She writes the most wonderful historical novels. Her William Monk mystery series remains my favourite. Although I have missed a few of her books over the years, I have never missed reading the annual Christmas novella she's been writing since 2003.

This year's book - A Christmas Garland - takes us to 1857 India. It is a few days before Christmas, but things are not peaceful in Cawnpore. The Indians are rebelling against the rule of the East India Company. Lieutenant Victor Narraway is a young soldier, only nineteen, but with a year in India under his belt already. When his superior officer calls him in to tell him he must defend a medical orderly accused of murder he is stunned - he has no formal law training at all. But the orderly swears he is innocent. Can Narraway save him from the hangman's noose in the few days he's been given?

Make yourself a pot of tea, turn on your reading lamp and settle in for another deliciously atmospheric tale from Perry. Her detailed descriptions bring historic events and settings to life. Narraway is a character I recognize from the Thomas Pitt mystery series. It was a treat to see him at a much earlier stage of his life. The opposing counsel is just as well drawn, albeit it in a negative light. The language and tone of the time are captured in Perry's dialogue - the horrors of war, the sense of honour and duty.

And into this slim volume, Perry manages to weave together a good mystery (I missed the conflicting clue) with a sense of hope and the human spirit. Reading Perry's annual Christmas book has become a tradition for me. And for those readers who haven't sampled Perry's writing yet, it's a great introduction.
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I have always loved Perry's Christmas-themed mysteries. I enjoy her formula of taking minor characters from the Pitt and Monk series' and letting them have starring roles in the Christmas novels. Narroway is perhaps the most interesting character going in the Pitt series these days other than Vespasia, so it was great to get a glimpse into his early exploits. I also loved the themes of hope, justice and honor - perfect for a Christmas tale. This was also a taut thriller that I read in one sitting. Highly recommended.
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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.
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Victor Narraway, former head of Special Branch, is one of Perry's most interesting characters, and in this novella we see Lt Narraway when he was a 20 year old, new to the British Army and to India. We learn more about him, helping to round out his character, although I wish there had been more about his childhood included. Narraway is out of his depths, but he is never one to give up. We can see how the man he is at 20 will grow into the man who headed Special Branch in the coming years. In the midst of the loneliness and hopelessness Narraway feels, a simple Christmas garland brings him hope and strength, something we can all identify with in some way. Perry, as usual, does a wonderful job with her characters and with her descriptions. This is set in India, after horrible events have taken place, and she infuses the story and people with a reality that keeps you there, in the dusty compound.

The mystery is bound up in the horrific events of the Indian Mutiny that saw families mutilated. But, as with everything, there are two sides and Perry does not blame everything on the Indian populace that rose up against the British presence, but presents the folly of the British that contributed to it. The mystery is a simple but clever one, and it kept me wondering what was the solution until the very end. The facts are there, and there aren't any last minute surprises thrown in to make you groan in disgust.

Note: for some, the recollections of the soldiers concerning the massacre might be too gory. For others, their interest in British history in India might be piqued.
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