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Showing 1-10 of 103 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 133 reviews
on October 30, 2012
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.
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on November 11, 2012
This novel is set in Cawnpore, India after the Siege of Cawnpore, 1857. A man is accused, by being the only man not accountable for, of allowing a prison break, and subsequent murder of further British deaths.

A young Lieutenant, Narraway, must try to defend John Tallis knowing that it is considered only a formality and that the judge has already determined his man's guilt.

In two days, Narraway has to recreate the actual break and re-interview all the persons connected. He meets the widows and children of many of the fallen soldiers. Through intense study, Lt. Narraway begins to form an alternative version of what truly happened.

The courtroom drama holds you in suspense as the Lieutenant's version is played out. Will justice ring true for the Christmas season so badly needed by this garrison? This novel is quickly read and yet is not short on details or story. Ms. Perry does herself proud.
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on November 13, 2013
Although I'd actually gotten a bit tired of these, for a change, I actually loved last year's annual Christmas novella from Anne Perry. She typically takes a minor character from one of her series and writes a non-traditional type of Christmas story around them.

In this one, she takes a minor character from one of the Pitt novels, albeit a character I'm not familiar with, and goes back to his early days as a young lieutenant in India after a siege. A prisoner escapes and, as a result, nearly an entire British patrol is killed. The lieutenant is ordered to take on the thankless task of defending the unit's popular medical orderly who is accused of murder for freeing the prisoner. That orderly is said to be the only one who was not working with anyone else at the time the crime was committed. Things seem impossible but the pressure mounts to get the trial over with before Christmas so that justice can be done and the unit can enjoy its Christmas holiday.

Absolutely loved this one. It's the 10th annual Christmas novella from Perry but each is, in effect, a standalone. For anyone who enjoys a good, quick story, I'd highly recommend this one.
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VINE VOICEon November 3, 2012
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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on October 30, 2012
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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VINE VOICEon March 6, 2013
First Sentence: Lieutenant Victor Narraway walked across the square in the cool evening air.

Young Lt. Victor Narraway has been given the unenviable task of provide a defense for British medial orderly John Tallis. He is accused of being an accessory to murder. His guilt is based solely due to him being the only person whose whereabouts were unknown when a guard was brutally murdered and a prisoner escapes. Although Narraway isn’t encouraged to try very hard and is given very little time to investigate, his sense of justice leads him determined to find the truth.

Ms. Perry’s Christmas novellas have become an annual tradition with me; setting aside time with hot cider, a cookie or few, and her book in which she features a secondary character from her series mysteries. This year’s entry, however, took us far away from a cozy Christmas.

It was very nice to see a young Victor Narraway, best known to readers as an attorney in the Pitt books, once in love with Charlotte. Here is merely twenty and ordered to try a murder case. Something Ms. Perry does extremely well is revealing the inner thoughts and concerns of the character without slowing down the story.

The events leading up to the actual story are very grim. The point is firmly made about the horrors of war, both to those who fight and the civilians in the way. England’s presence in India was not a particularly noble point in her history. At the same time, the descriptions which serve to repulse us, also make us present in Narraway’s environment. We are in, and of, the time.

The plot is very well done. I did miss one major clue. Still I found ending very abrupt and a bit convenient. For that, the book lost a few points from me.

“A Christmas Garland” may not be the best of Ms. Perry’s annual books, but it is a very good story of justice being done.

A CHRISTMAS GARLAND (Hist/Mys-Lt Victor Narraway-India-1857) - G+
Perry, Anne – 10th in series
Ballentine Books, 2012
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on November 29, 2013
I loved this opportunity to go back in time to see what Pitt's commander, Victor Narraway was like as a young man. The setting of India just after the Mutiny was colorful and intense even without the pressure he was put under to defend a man that everyone felt was guilty of murder and treason. I've always liked his character in the Charlotte and Thomas stories, but he is so closed off that it was nice to get some of his family background and see how he thought about things since he was the narrator for this one.

The story opens when Lt. Victor Narraway only one year out to India and arriving after the worst of the Mutiny took effect, is called in by his superiors to act as the defense counsel for a man accused of helping a prisoner escape who then in turn gave the Indian rebels information on a patrol that was massacred. Narraway is chose exactly because he is new and could be the most neutral about it all. He is given two days to investigate and come up with an answer that will see justice done so the men can move on and gain some semblance of healing.

Narraway knows that he is in an awkward position because feeling is high. Some don't want to believe Tallis is guilty and others are angry and want him hung quickly. His investigations take him over ground that shows no one else could have done it leaving Tallis the only one without an air tight alibi. Narraway doesn't want to believe the man is guilty and he discovers that he is not only well-liked, but has saved many lives even placing his own in danger. He can't imagine how such a man could betray his own and Tallis himself swears he's innocent. It's a real nail-biter that comes right down to the end in a courtroom drama style story.

This was a shorter piece just like all the Christmas Stories series, but I really liked being in the story with Victor Narraway. I was glad of this peek in with his early years and could see how something like this would shape him for what was to come afterward. I was also taken with the historical backdrop of this one and what it was like for the soldiers picking up the pieces after the Mutiny. I connected easily with this one feeling right along with the soldiers and shuttering over the butchery that took place. The mystery was not easily solved and I liked that too. The little bit of Christmas with the widow's family was a nice touch too.

I highly recommend both of Anne Perry's historical mystery series along with this Christmas story series featuring secondary characters from the other series as her main characters in these. These really should be read chronologically as they fit between the other series just so the characters and stories make better sense.
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on December 1, 2012
Since I am usually drawn to Anne Perry's novels for her unparallelled ability to realistically portray Victorian London, I was a bit unsure as to whether I would appreciate the departure from her normal setting into one revolving around British occupied India. And yet, once I picked this book up, I was hard pressed to put it down.

'A Christmas Garland' is the story of Victor Narraway, a Lieutenant recently stationed in India who is called to defend John Tallis, an army surgeon accused of a traitorous act which led to the ambush and slaughter of innocent soldiers. The trial is intended to be a morale booster amongst the troops - a swift yet fair death to a traitor as consolation to all those who lost friends, husbands and fathers in the attack - but not only does Tallis prove a sympathetic character from our first introduction, Narraway is determined his trial not be a farce. Despite opposition wherever he turns, the young, inexperienced Lieutenant is adamant on bringing about justice over revenge, which leads him to question the validity of the facts at hand, but even in the very existence of a just God. Needless to say, even though this was a quick read, it was neither insubstantial or forgettable, and I literally devoured it in two settings.

I have read several of Perry's Christmas novels and felt this one transcended them all. Not only in the plotting, but of the underlying theme of the spirit of Christmas, which Narraway kept in his heart in spite of the fact he was stationed in a foreign country without the traditional English trappings. It was slightly dark, yes, but in an inspirational way, in my opinion. Being that I tend to read everything with a critical eye, I will not say this was perfect - I would have liked to see more interaction between Narraway and Tallis, and elaboration of a few scenes, but aside from that, this was an excellent, unforgettable installment to a series I look more forward to every year.
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on January 12, 2014
I chose this book for my book club's holiday selection, based on the other Anne Perry novels I have read, which I have greatly enjoyed. I also selected the book for its setting in India, at the time of the British occupation. This book was a real disappointment, not only for me, but for the other book club members. It felt like she had not put the time and energy into creating the characters and story arcs. I understand this is a "Christmas franchise" for her, and I'm not sure why it was titled "A Christmas Garland," since the garland plays a very peripheral role, and there is no real Christmas celebration. Ms. Perry also leaves the reader hanging as to the little red wagon and the relationship with the widow and her family. She does a good job, however, of communicating the arrogance and ignorance of the British leaders and the horror that followed. Perhaps next year's book will be better.
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on December 5, 2012
I was immediately involved in this short mystery in which Christmas actually plays such a minor role as to be superfluous, is the appearance of the twenty year old Victor Narraway, newly minted Lieutenant who is deputized to defend an accused murderer eventhough everyone knows the accused is guilty.
Narraway plays a major role in the most recent, eight or ten latest, Thomas and Charlotte Pitt mysteries set in Victorian England. It is very good to get a glimpse of young Narraway and how he becomes who he becomes in the next forty or so years.
Set in British Colonial India during the Muntiny in 1857, this novel relies on historical events and local color to set the stage for this complex murder mystery which, of course, is solved in remarkable ways.
I have never really been a fan a mystery novels but I do love them from Anne Perry because the stories clothes historical events; a worthy Christmas Gift for a read by the chestnut roasting fire. S
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