cover image A Christmas Gathering

A Christmas Gathering

Anne Perry. Ballantine, $20 (208p) ISBN 978-0-525621-01-0

Set in Victorian England, bestseller Perry’s 17th Christmas mystery (after 2018’s A Christmas Revelation) is less rewarding than others in the series. Victor Narraway, from the author’s Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series, who has stepped down as the head of Special Branch, travels with his wife from London to the country estate of the Cavendishes, where they are to spend Christmas. Narraway is on a secret mission to take custody of “submarine blueprints, discreetly doctored,” so as to be unusable in actually developing such a vessel. Narraway is to pass the fakes on through British spy networks to Germany, in order to out a suspected traitor in the intelligence services. Twenty years earlier, Narraway had a similar assignment in Normandy that ended with the death of a young female Special Branch agent. History seems to repeat itself when someone attacks Iris Watson-Watt, a fellow guest at Cavendish Manor, after she passes the blueprints to him, leading Narraway to play sleuth to identify her assailant. An obvious villain disappoints. This is an unmemorable effort by a prolific author who is usually better. Agent: Donald Maass, Donald Maass Literary. (Nov.)