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A Christmas Vanishing

Christmas is all about traditions, old and new. From the national tree lighting and cookies for Santa to hanging stockings and sometimes-dicey office parties, we all have these celebrations. For more than twenty years, one of my favorite holiday traditions has been to read the new Victorian Christmas mystery novella from Anne Perry.


Sadly, with Anne Perry’s death earlier this year, my wonderful tradition has come to an end. I’m not sure her last novella could have a more appropriate name: A Christmas Vanishing.


I’ve enjoyed that these stories featured characters I knew from Perry’s popular William Monk and Thomas Pitt series, but often only peripherally. These have included maids, junior police officers, aunts, and other characters in minor or supporting roles. In A Christmas Vanishing, Mariah Elliot, the grandmother of Charlotte Pitt, has accepted an invitation to spend the holiday with an old friend, Sadie. But when Mariah arrives, she discovers the woman is missing, and no one, not even her husband, knows where she’s gone.


Mariah becomes concerned when none of the villagers seem particularly worried. Sadie, she’s told, is a manipulative attention seeker who is probably punishing her husband for some perceived slight. Tracing Sadie’s last known steps, Mariah meets and enlists the help of local bookshop owner Oliver Mallard. However, the man, whom Mariah instinctively likes and trusts, has secrets of his own.


As Christmas nears, Mariah worries that actual harm has come to her friend. If she’s not been abducted but has met with an accident, the freezing temperatures will prove deadly for the 80-year-old woman. The search reveals disturbing truths that Mariah must face if she's to succeed.


Discovering evidence that Sadie is injured, Mariah and Oliver know it will take a community maligned by the missing woman to save her. In Mariah’s quest to rescue her friend, she discovers the route to true happiness is forgiveness—starting with forgiving oneself.


A Christmas Vanishing is a tribute to the fundamentals of a life well-lived: facing hard truths, overcoming pride and vanity, community spirit, acceptance, and, oh yes, forgiveness. I believe I’ll start a new Christmas tradition: going back twenty years and reading the series anew.


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