A Christmas Garland
  • A Christmas Garland
  • A Christmas Garland

A Christmas Garland

3.8 11
by Anne Perry

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“An annual treat,” declared The Wall Street Journal of Anne Perry’s Victorian-era holiday mysteries. Now she continues this magnificent tradition with A Christmas Garland, a yuletide tale set in exotic India. This time the mistress of mystery tells the story of a terrible crime that sets the stage for another: accusing an innocent man…  See more details below


“An annual treat,” declared The Wall Street Journal of Anne Perry’s Victorian-era holiday mysteries. Now she continues this magnificent tradition with A Christmas Garland, a yuletide tale set in exotic India. This time the mistress of mystery tells the story of a terrible crime that sets the stage for another: accusing an innocent man of murder.
The year is 1857, soon after the violent Siege of Cawnpore, with India in the midst of rebellion. In the British garrison, a guard is killed and an Indian prisoner escapes, which leads to yet more British deaths. Cries for revenge are overwhelming. Despite no witnesses and no evidence against him, a luckless British medical orderly named John Tallis is arrested as an accomplice simply because he was the only soldier unaccounted for when these baffling crimes were committed.
Though chosen to defend Tallis, young Lieutenant Victor Narraway is not encouraged to try very hard. Narraway’s superiors merely want a show trial. But inspired by a soldier’s widow and her children, and by his own stubborn faith in justice, Narraway searches for the truth. In an alien world haunted by memories of massacre, he is the accused man’s only hope.
The trial of John Tallis equals the white-knuckle best of Anne Perry’s breathtaking courtroom dramas. And thanks to a simple Christmas garland and some brilliant detective work, Narraway perseveres against appalling odds, learning how to find hope within himself—and turn the darkest hour into one full of joy and light.
A Christmas Homecoming
“Could have been devised by Agatha Christie . . . [Perry is] a modern master.”—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Vastly entertaining . . . uplifting and thought-provoking by turns.”—The Star-Ledger
A Christmas Odyssey
“[Perry] writes with detail that invades the senses.”—Lincoln Journal Star
A Christmas Promise
“Poignant . . . should be on the Christmas stocking list of anyone who likes a sniffle of nostalgia.”—The Washington Times
A Christmas Grace
“[A] heartwarming, if crime-tinged, complement to the holiday season.”—Booklist
A Christmas Beginning
“Intriguing . . . Perry’s use of period detail is, as always, strong and evocative.”—The Seattle Times

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Perry's tenth Christmas novel takes a new turn; it's set in 1857 India and features Victor Narraway, the boss of Perry stalwart Thomas Pitt. On his first assignment, Narraway arrives in India during the mutiny against the East India Company, charged with defending a British medical orderly accused of murdering a fellow guard. Narraway succeeds with the help of two children and a Christmas garland. A couple of books in this series have been New York Times best sellers; the change of venue could be a real refresher.
The Washington Post
Anne Perry dispenses with the snow, the mistletoe, the plum pudding and the tree but still winds up with a terrific British holiday mystery in A Christmas Garland.
—Yvonne Zipp
Publishers Weekly
A particularly strong plot distinguishes bestseller Perry's 10th Christmas mystery (after 2011's Christmas Homecoming). In India in 1857, unrest over the oppressive minority rule of the East India Company has come to a head, with thousands of civilians as well as company employees dying in the ensuing violence. Against this tense backdrop, inexperienced Lt. Victor Narraway must defend Cpl. John Tallis, the medical orderly at Cawnpore, who stands accused of aiding an escaped Indian prisoner, Dhuleep Singh, who murdered a guard and fled with classified information on British troop movements. Though no one doubts Tallis's guilt, Narraway's military superiors order him to mount a vigorous defense to preserve a sense of law and order. The tension becomes palpable as the lieutenant frantically strains to find some evidence to exonerate Singh. Few readers will anticipate the clever solution. Agent: MBA Literary. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
Perennial best-selling author Perry (A Sunless Sea, 2012, etc.) once again shows why her work resonates with readers in this short Christmas story that doesn't rely on all of the usual yuletide tricks to make it sing. Victor Narraway serves with the British army in 1857 war-torn India. Going into the service wasn't his idea, though; his father decided it would turn him into a man. Young Narraway now wears the insignia of lieutenant in a troubled country ruled by the British Empire. Recent uprisings among the Indian people have resulted in the deaths of thousands of Englishmen and their families, and the escape of a prisoner led to the tragic ambush of a patrol. It's that escape and patrol that now occupy Narraway, even though he wasn't even part of the garrison when the attack took place. His senior officer, Col. Latimer, who will preside over the court martial of a suspect in the case, has appointed him to represent the soldier, a medical orderly named John Tallis, who stands accused of conspiring with an Indian traitor to facilitate his escape and the targeting of the patrol. Narraway is only given a couple of days to prepare for the trial, which he understands he will lose: Tallis is the only soldier who cannot be accounted for during the time that the escape took place. But when Narraway visits with Tallis, he is struck by how much he likes the forlorn and ultimately doomed medical orderly and believes he is innocent of the crime. With little hope of saving the man before the onset of Christmas, Narraway sets out to prove his innocence and surprises even himself with his resourcefulness. 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.

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Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Christmas Mysteries Series , #10
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Random House
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2 MB

Read an Excerpt

Lieutenant Victor Narraway walked across the square in the cool evening air. It was mid-December, a couple of weeks before Christmas. At home in England it might already be snowing, but here in India there would not even be a frost. No one had ever seen snow in Cawnpore. Any other year it would be a wonderful season: one of rejoicing, recalling happy memories of the past, and looking forward to the future, perhaps with a little nostalgia for those loved ones who were far away.

But this year of 1857 was different. The fire of mutiny had scorched across the land, touching everything with death.

He came to the outer door of one of the least-damaged parts of the barracks and knocked. Immediately it was opened and he stepped inside. Oil lamps sent a warming yellow light over the battered walls and the few remnants of the once-secure occupation, as they had been before the siege and then its relief. There was little furniture left whole: a bullet-scarred desk, three chairs that had seen better days, a bookcase and several cupboards, one with only half a door.

Colonel Latimer was standing in the middle of the room. He was a tall and spare man well into his forties; a dozen Indian summers had burned his skin brown, but there was little color beneath it to alleviate the weariness and the marks of exhaustion. He regarded the twenty-year-old lieutenant in front of him with something like an apologetic look.

“I have an unpleasant duty for you, Narraway,” he said quietly. “It must be done, and done well. You’re new to this regiment, but you have an excellent record. You are the right man for this job.”

Narraway felt a chill, in spite of the mild evening. His father had purchased a commission for him, and he had served a brief training in England before being sent out to India. He had arrived a year ago, just before the issue of the fateful cartridges at Dum Dum in January, which later in the spring had erupted in mutiny. The rumor had been that the bullets were coated with animal grease, in the part required to be bitten into in order to open the cartridge for use. The Hindus had been told it was beef fat. Cows were sacred, and to kill one was blasphemy. To put cow fat to the lips was damnation. The Muslims had been told it was pork fat, and to them, the pig was an unclean animal. To put that grease to your lips would damn your soul, although for an entirely different reason.

Of course, that was not the only cause of the mutiny by hundreds of thousands of Indians against the rule of a few thousand Englishmen employed by the East India Company. The reasons were more complex, far more deeply rooted in the social inequities and the cultural offenses of a foreign rule. The bullets had merely been the spark that had ignited the fire.

Also it was true, as far as Narraway could gather, that the mutiny was far from universal. It was violent and terrible only in small parts of the country. Thousands of miles remained untouched by it, lying peaceful, if a little uneasy, under the winter sun. But the province of Sind on the Hindustan plains had seen much of the very worst of it, Cawnpore and Lucknow in particular.

General Colin Campbell, a hero from the recent war in the Crimea, had fought to relieve the siege at Luck­now. A week ago he and his men had defeated 25,000 rebels here at Cawnpore. Was it the beginning of a turning of the tide? Or just a glimmer of light that would not last?

Narraway stood to attention, breathing deeply to calm himself. Why had he come to Latimer’s notice?

“Yes, sir,” he said between his teeth.

Latimer smiled bleakly. There was no light in his face, no warmth of approval. “You will be aware of the recent escape of the prisoner Dhuleep Singh,” he went on. “And that his guard, Chuttur Singh, was hacked to death in the course of Dhuleep’s escape?”

Narraway’s mouth was dry. Of course he knew it; everyone in the Cawnpore station knew it.

“Yes, sir,” he said obediently, forcing the words out.

“It has been investigated.” Latimer’s jaw was tight, and a small muscle jumped in his temple. “We know Dhuleep Singh had privileged information regarding troop movements, specifically regarding the recent patrol that was massacred. We also know the man could not have escaped without assistance.” His voice was growing quieter, as if he found the words more and more difficult to say. He cleared his throat with an effort. “Our inquiries have excluded every possibility except that he was helped by Corporal John Tallis, the medical orderly.” He met Narraway’s eyes. “We will try him the day after tomorrow. I require you to speak in his defense.”

Narraway’s mind whirled. There was a chill like ice in the pit of his stomach. A score of reasons leaped to his mind why he could not do what Latimer was asking of him. He was not even remotely equal to the task. It would be so much better to have one of the officers who had been with the regiment during the siege and the relief do it, someone who knew everyone. Above all, they should have an officer who was experienced in military law, who had defended men dozens of times and was known and respected by the regiment.

Then a cold, sane voice inside assured him that it was precisely because he was none of these things that Latimer had chosen him.

“Yes, sir,” he said faintly.

“Major Strafford will be here any moment,” Latimer continued. “He will give you any instruction and advice that you may need. I shall be presiding over the court, so it is not appropriate that I should do it.”

“Yes, sir,” Narraway said again, feeling as if another nail had been driven into the coffin lid of his career. Major Strafford’s dislike of him dated back to the time before he had joined the regiment. Almost certainly it stemmed from Narraway’s brief acquaintance with Strafford’s younger brother. They had been in the same final year at Eton, and little about their association had been happy.

Narraway had been academic, a natural scholar and disinclined toward sports. The younger Strafford was a fine athlete but no competition for Narraway in the classroom. They existed happily enough in a mutual contempt. It was shattered one summer evening in a magnificent cricket match, nail-bitingly close, with Strafford’s team having the slight edge—until Narraway showed a rare flash of brilliance in the only sport he actually enjoyed. The dark, slender scholar, without a word spoken, bowled out the last three men on Strafford’s team, including the great sportsman himself. The fact that he did it with apparent ease was appalling, but that he did not overtly take any pleasure in it was unforgivable.

And Strafford Minor had never been able to exact his revenge on the field, which was the only place he could redeem his honor. Other victories did not count. And practical jokes or barbed wit looked to be nothing more than the spite of a bad loser.

But that was boyhood, two years ago and thousands of miles away.

“Captain Busby will prosecute,” Latimer was going on. “The evidence seems simple enough. You will be free to interview Corporal Tallis at any time you wish, and anyone else you feel could be helpful to your defense. If there are any legal points that you need to clarify, speak to Major Strafford.”

“Yes, sir.” Narraway was still at attention, his muscles aching with the effort of keeping complete control of himself.

There was a brief knock on the door.

“Come,” Latimer ordered.

The door swung open and Major Strafford came in. He was a tall, handsome man in his early thirties, but the echo of Narraway’s schoolfellow, so much his junior, was there in the set of his shoulders, the thick, fair hair, the shape of his jaw.

Strafford glanced at Latimer.

“Sir.” He saluted, then, as he was given permission, relaxed. He regarded Narraway expressionlessly. “You’d better read up on the case tonight and start questioning people tomorrow morning,” he said. “You need to be sure of the law. We don’t want anyone afterward saying that we cut corners. I presume you appreciate that?”

“Yes, sir.” Narraway heard the edge of condescension in Strafford’s voice and would dearly like to have told him that he was as aware as anyone else of how they would all be judged on their conduct in the matter. More than that, the future of British rule in India would be flavored by reports of decisions such as this. The whole structure of Empire hung together on the belief in justice, in doing things by immutable rules and a code of honor that they themselves never broke.

Thousands of men were dead already, as well as women and children. If the British ever regained control and there was to be any kind of peace, it must be under the rule of law. It was the only safety for people of any color or faith. Otherwise there was no hope left for anyone. Right now there seemed to be little enough in any circumstances. Delhi had fallen, Lucknow, Agra, Jhelum, Sugauli, Dinapoor, Lahore, Kolapore, Ramgarh, Peshawar—and on and on. The list seemed endless.

“Good,” Strafford said curtly. “Whatever you think you know, you’d better come and see me and tell me at least the outline of your defense.” He looked at Narraway closely, his blue eyes curiously luminous in the light of the oil lamp. “You must be sure to mount some defense—you do understand that, don’t you? At least put forward a reason why a man like Tallis should betray the men he’s served beside all his career. I know he’s a quarter Indian, or something of the sort, but that’s no excuse.”

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A Christmas Garland: A Novel 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Lynnevive More than 1 year ago
I have only read a few of Anne Perry's novelettes, but enjoyed this one and will look for more of her stories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read all of Perry's Christmas novelettes and this one is by far the very best. Meeting the young Narraway and watching his unwavering determination to defend an indefensible Englishman in war-torn India was just fascinating. The plot events are tightly woven. Just a great read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite authors. So well written and the story keeps you reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As tlo the ajthors paast it was when she was a child and she wad judged and deallt with this is now and she is an excellent artist wth prose enjoy her soffk and leave the rest to god
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
QueenMummy More than 1 year ago
Disliked this one. I always read the little Christmas books by Anne Perry and this one just left me cold. It was repetitive, as Narraway rehashed his case for most of the book. That was tedious and not a theme I cared for at the holiday season.
Annony More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed very much, but missed the romance found in most of the Anne Perry Christmas books that I have read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anne Perry was convicted of helping to beat her best friend's mother to death. She and the friend were 14 at the time.