A Christmas Odyssey

A Christmas Odyssey

by Anne Perry

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345523174
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/26/2010
Series: Christmas Mysteries Series , #8
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 279,288
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Anne Perry is the bestselling author of seven earlier holiday novels—A Christmas Promise, A Christmas Grace, A Christmas Journey, A Christmas Visitor, A Christmas Guest, A Christmas Secret, and A Christmas Beginning—as well as the William Monk series and the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series set in Victorian England, five World War I novels, and a work of historical fiction, The Sheen on the Silk. Anne Perry lives in Scotland.

From the Hardcover edition.


Portmahomack, Ross-shire, U.K

Date of Birth:

October 28, 1938

Place of Birth:

Blackheath, London England

Read an Excerpt

HENRY RATHBONE LEANED A LITTLE FARTHER forward in his armchair and regarded his visitor gravely. James Wentworth had an air of weariness in his face that made him look older than his sixty-odd years. There was something close to desperation in the way his hands fidgeted, clenching and unclenching on his knees.
“What can I do?” Henry asked gently.
“Perhaps nothing,” Wentworth answered. As he spoke, the logs in the fire settled deeper, sending up a shower of sparks. It was a bitter night, ten days before Christmas. Outside, the icy wind moaned in the eaves of this pleasant house on Primrose Hill. Beyond, the vast city of London prepared for holiday and feasting, carols, church bells, and parties. There was not long to wait now.
“You say ‘perhaps,’ ” Henry prompted him. “So possibly there is something to be done. Let us at least try.” He gave a brief smile. “This is the season of hope—some believe, of miracles.”
“Do you?” Wentworth asked. “Would you pursue a miracle for me?”
Henry looked at the weight of grief in his friend’s face. They had not met in more than a year, and it seemed that Wentworth had aged almost beyond recognition in that time.
“Of course I would,” Henry replied. “I could not promise to catch it. I cannot even swear to you that I believe in such things.”
“Always honest, and so literal,” Wentworth said with a ghost of amusement in his eyes.
“Comes from being a mathematician,” Henry answered. “I can’t help it. But I do believe there is more to be discovered or understood than the multitude of things that we now know all put together. We have barely tasted the realm of knowledge that lies waiting.”
Wentworth nodded. “I think that will suffice,” he accepted. “Do you remember my son, Lucien?”
“Of course.” Henry remembered him vividly: a handsome young man, unusually charming. Far more than that, he was filled with an energy of mind and spirit, an insatiable hunger for life that made other people think of new horizons, even resurrect old dreams.
Pain filled Wentworth’s eyes again and he looked down, as if to keep some privacy, so as not to be so acutely readable.
“About a year ago he began to frequent certain places in the West End where the entertainment was even more … wild, self-indulgent than usual. There he met a young woman with whom he became obsessed. He gambled, he drank to excess, he tasted of many vices he had not even considered previously. There was an edge of violence and cruelty in his pursuits that was more than the normal indulgence of the stupidity of a young man, or the carelessness of those with no thought for consequences.”
He stopped, but Henry had not interrupted him. The fire was burning low. He took two more logs from the basket and placed them on the embers, poking them to stir up the flames again.
“Now he has disappeared. I have tried to look for him myself,” Wentworth continued. “But he evades me, going deeper into that world and the darkness of those who inhabit it. I … I was angry in the beginning. It was such a waste of the talent and the promise he had. To begin with, when it was just overindulgence in drinking and gambling, I forgave him. I paid his debts and even saved him from prosecution. But then it grew far worse. He became violent. Had I gone on rescuing him, might I have given him to believe that there is no price to be paid for cruelty, or that self-destruction can be undone at a word, or a wish?” His hands gripped each other, white-knuckled. “Where does forgiveness eventually become a lie, no longer an issue of his healing but simply my refusal to face the truth?”
“I don’t know,” Henry said honestly. “Perhaps we seldom do know, until we have passed the point. What would you like me to do?”
“Look for Lucien. If I go after him myself, I only drive him deeper into that terrible world. I am afraid that he will go beyond the place from where he could ever return, perhaps even to his death.” He looked up, meeting Henry’s eyes. “I realize how much it is I ask of you, and that your chances of success may be slight. But he is my son. Nothing he does changes that. I deplore it, but I shall not cease loving him. Sometimes I wish I could; it would be so much easier.”
Henry shook his head. “Those of us who have loved don’t need an explanation, and those of us who haven’t would not understand it.” His smile was rueful, with a little self-mocking in it. “I study science and logic, the beauty of mathematics. But without those things that are beyond explanation, such as courage, hope, and above all, love, there can be no joy. I’m not even sure if there could be humor. And without laughter we lose proportion, perhaps in the end even humanity.”
He became serious again. “But if I am to look for Lucien, I need to know more about him than the charming young man I met, who was apparently very well able to hide the deeper part of himself from superficial acquaintances, perhaps even from those who knew him well.”
Wentworth sighed. “Of course you must. That is still not to say that I find it easy to tell you.” He sighed. “Like most young men, he explored his physical appetites, and to begin with I did not find his excesses worrying. I can remember being somewhat foolish myself, in my twenties. But Lucien is thirty-four, and he has not outgrown it. Rather, he has indulged more dangerous tastes: drugs of different sorts that release all inhibitions and to which it is all too easy to become addicted. He enjoys the usual pleasures of the flesh, but with young women of a more corrupt nature than most. There is always the danger of disease, but the woman he has chosen is capable of damage of a far deeper sort.”
For a few moments Wentworth stared into the flames, which were now licking up and beginning to devour the new logs. “She offers him the things he seems to crave most: a feeling of power, which is perhaps the ultimate drug, and of being admired, of being able to exercise control over others, of being regarded as innately superior.”
Henry did not argue. He began to see the enormity of what his friend was asking of him. Even if he found Lucien Wentworth, what was there he could say that might tempt him to come back to the father he had denied in every possible way?
“I’ll try,” he said quietly. “But I have little idea how to even begin, let alone how to accomplish such a task.”
“Thank you,” Wentworth replied, his voice hoarse. Perhaps he was finally facing the reality that to try at all was little more than a kindness, driven by pity rather than hope. He rose to his feet as if exhaustion all but overwhelmed him. “Thank you, Henry. Call if you have anything to tell me. I shall not disturb you to ask.” He put one hand in a pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. “Here is a list of the last places that I know he frequented. It may be of use.”
Henry Rathbone awoke the following morning wishing that he had not promised Wentworth that he would help him. As he sat at the breakfast table, eating toast and marmalade without pleasure, he admitted to himself that it was a lack of courage that had made him agree to it. Even if Henry found him, Lucien Wentworth was not going to come home. He did not want to. His father might be spared a good deal of distress simply by not knowing for certain what had happened to him.
But Henry had given his word, and now he was bound to do his best, whatever that might turn out to be. How should he begin? He had had a good deal of fun in his own university days, which were now at least thirty-five years behind him. He had sat up all night talking, certainly drunk more beer than was good for him, knew some women of a sort his mother didn’t even imagine existed, and learned some very bawdy songs, most of which he still remembered.
But he had grown out of it before he was thirty. It was all a hazy memory now, which was not even worth exploring. What compelled Lucien was something entirely different. It was a hunger that fed upon itself and that, in the end, would devour everything.
He spread out the sheet of paper Wentworth had given him, the list of places he had found Lucien in the past. But by his own admission Lucien was no longer likely to be in such places. He had sunk deeper than mere drunken brawling and abuse, or even the simple womanizing many young men indulged in at the better-known brothels.
Many of his own friends had sons who had disappointed them, one way or another, but a good man did not ask questions about such things, and if he accidentally learned of them he affected not to have. He certainly did not repeat it to others.

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A Christmas Odyssey 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
bookwoman247 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
It's Christmas time and James Wentworth enlists the help of his friend Henry Rathbone to reunite him with his estranged son, Lucien, who has fallen into the abyss of Victorian London's underground of unimaginable debauchery, sordid appetites of all kinds, and violent criminal behavior. Squeaky Robinson, who is nurse Hester Monk's assistant, Crow, an almost-doctor, and Bessie, a 14-yr-old who is at home in the underground but who has not yet been tainted by its fetid atmosphere join Henry on his quest to rescue his friend's peodigal son.I enjoyed this, but I didn't think it was quite as strong as Perry's other Christmas books.
delphimo on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This story combines illusions to Homer's Odyssey and the Bible's prodigal son. This is a Christmas novella and the setting and characters are not as developed as in Perry's other novels. I enjoyed seeing old characters such as Squeaky Robinson, Crow, and Henry Rathbone in this novella. Henry Rathbone played a major role in this story and aiding in the final resolution. Henry has promised a friend that he will find the friend's wayward son. The journey takes Henry, Squeaky, and Crow to the lower levels of English society, to the sewers and to the opium dens. I am surprised at Henry's fortitude. This is a quick and enjoyable read.
Romonko on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I have been reading Anne Perry's Christmas novellas since she started bringing them out. I always enjoy them because they offer wonderful vignettes of Victorian Christmases in colourful settings. This book is certainly different than the previous ones. It is set right in London around Christmas time. It is not a simple little murder mystery since we don't find any bodies until almost the end of the book. What we do get is an up close and personal look at the Victorian England Underworld. And now I know where that word came from as the people in this book are truly in the underworld as they live and conduct their business and follow their sexual fantasies underneath London in subterranean tunnels. We have Oliver Rathbone's father Henry and his motley group trying to find Henry Rathbone's friend's son who has disappeared into this world for a number of weeks. I really enjoyed the book as I do all of Anne Perry's work. I recommend these little books to anyone who enjoys holiday mysteries.
Whisper1 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Anne Perry knows Victorian England and this is yet another of her novels wherein she melds the poor, down trodden who live in the gloomy, sewage filled streets with the rich affluent, born into a life of privilege.James Wentworth has one final chance to locate his son when he asks his friend Henry Rathbone to bring him home from the seedy, opium, laudanum filled dens where any type of perversion can be purchased.Perry brings together a very likeable cast of characters who together travel to the graphic, lurid, perverted places to rescue Wentworth's son from a life style he now embraces.While this is not your every-day Christmas cheer type of story, Perry's novel is very well written, historically accurate and well worth the time spent reading.
lindapanzo on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Mystery author Anne Perry is best known for her Monk series and her Pitt series but she also has a "Christmas series." This is the 8th book in the long-running series. Every year, I snap up the latest book in the series and read it before Christmas. I like this series quite a bit.This was not one of the better installments in the series. The story itself, about a well-to-do man who, with several newfound friends, goes into the depths of the Victorian London underworld to find a friend's son, is only ok.What's missing here, when compared to other books in the series, is the near total lack of Christmas. There's a mention here and there but this is a disappointment to me.If you, like me, have read all the books in the Christmas series, you'll probably want to read this one. If not, this is not the one to start with.
clue on LibraryThing 5 months ago
A weak plot with events stretched out and repeated to pull a book length story out of it.
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harstan More than 1 year ago
With less than two weeks before Christmas, not everyone in frozen London is rejoicing. Affluent sexagenarian James Wentworth feels bah humbug ill over the behavior of his son Lucien. All the younger Wentworth dies for are drugs and sex ever since he discovered the dens of iniquity in the West End last year after meeting Sadie. Desperate to save his offspring from himself, Wentworth turns to his long time friend Henry Rathbone for help. Henry agrees to find the lad who he remembers as being nice and charming. However, though he has hope and promise for a happy intervention, Henry also knows he ventures into a part of London's depravity he is totally unfamiliar with. On his Christmas Odyssey into the West End, Rathbone meets former brothel owner Squeaky Robinson employed at Hester Monk's clinic and Dr. Crow physician to the downtrodden and underbelly. The three unite to follow clues to Sadie and her brutal owner Shadwell while also encountering Bessie the courageous teen. The annual Anne Perry Victorian Christmas saga is a great but very dark thriller in which the beacons of light in the Shadwell shadows of the slums comes from the hopes of the three males and the teen who joined them on their venture. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as the audience anticipates a Christmas showdown between the Odyssey voyagers and the evil that welcomes them to his version of the Eagles' Hotel California. Harriet Klausner