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A CHRISTMAS VISITOR
By Anne Perry
Ballantine Books, 2004
Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel
In this novella, Henry Rathbone, better known to readers of Perry's William Monk series, joins a Christmas gathering of the Dreghorn family at their beautiful country estate in the English Lake District. The year is 1850, and the countryside is blanketed with snow.
The Dreghorn brothers had spread to the far corners of the earth, and this was planned to be a happy reunion after ten years of separation. Rathbone, however, knows this is not to be. Antonia Dreghorn, Rathbone's godchild, had contacted him in London to tell him her husband Judah, the oldest brother and head of the family, was dead, victim of a stupid accident. He'd been trying to cross an icy stream in the middle of the night and fell in.
To make matters worse, Antonia tells Rathbone that before his death Judah was being hounded by Ashton Gower, a man he'd sent to prison for forgery ten years ago. The man's allegations threaten to not only ruin Judah's reputation and besmirch his good name in the community, but to take away everything his family owns.
Rathbone, who has known Judah for many years, is at first adamant that his friend was much too honorable to have done what Gower claims he did. As he digs further into the matter, though, he finds that Gower's claims may have some basis in fact. With a heavy heart, he nonetheless keeps on until he discovers the truth.
As with many of Perry's works, honor, decency and doing the right thing are at the heart of this story. It is a quiet, gentle book, best read on a chilly night in a cozy chair by the fireplace.
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