First Sentence: Charles Latterly stared across the untroubled sea at the shore they were fast approaching.
Hester Monk’s brother, widower Charles Latterly wishes to escape from the holidays in England and travels to a small hotel on the Italian island of Stromboli. However, with the exception of the innkeeper, an elderly man and his niece, neither his co-visitors, nor the island’s volcano, prove to be very restful. When the volcano starts to make its presence felt and one of the guests is found murdered, Charles realizes they must escape the hotel, and the killer among them.
Perry creates such wonderful descriptions--”The mountain rose sharply, as symmetrical and uncomplicated as a child’s drawing.”--that places come to life under her deft hand. One can’t but smile at her analogy of the volcano…”…it’s mostly like a lot of old people: It complains and uses some harsh language, but it doesn’t really do anything.” Or, at least until it does.
Charles is a strong protagonist yet interesting in that he rather fades into the background, letting others, particularly Candice, the delightful 14-year-old, her uncle, and Stefano the innkeeper, take center stage. It’s a cleverly done balance and one that works extremely well. At the same time, Perry effectively introduces us to all of the characters through a conversation which also provides a sense of their personalities and relationships.
One doesn’t always think of Perry and food, but being set in Italy, how could food not be included—“fresh crusty bread, slightly salty butter, and think dollops of homemade apricot jam.” And that is just the start.
An author who causes one to stop and consider, is always worth reading. Charles description of a perfect speech might also be applied to a well-written book. Yet it is her analogy of Stefano and the volcano that one may find stays with them—“Stefano was frightened of the mountain. It was not love he felt for it but respect, awe, and that included a knowledge of its power….It gave life, but it also dealt death.”
“A Christmas Escape,” set on a volcanic island, provides suspense and sense of grave danger which escalates at a breath-taking rate as the story progresses. Yet it is the vividness of Charles and Candice that leaves one hoping they will reappear in the future.
A CHRISTMAS ESCAPE (Hist Mys-Charles Latterly-Italy-Vict) – 13th Christmas Novella – VG+
Perry, Anne –Standalone
Ballantine Books - November 2015