I guess I recommend this anthology. I mean, it does have the
next installment of J.D. Robb's saga of Eve and Roark. And the other
three novellas are certainly the work of talented authors. But I must
admit to a bit of puzzlement. Isn't it generally the case that the
stories in an anthology have a common theme or thread? Aren't Christmas
anthologies in particular supposed to create a warm and fuzzy feeling of
peace on earth and all that stuff?
If you are expecting Silent Night to conform to these
expectations, be aware that such is not the case. Indeed, the book has
a split personality. The first two stories are pleasant, even in the
case of Cross's, whimsical holiday tales. The last two, while partaking
of a holiday setting, are certainly not cheer-filled! But if variety is
your spice of life, then you might well enjoy this anthology.
I began by reading J.D. Robb's "Midnight in Death," even though it is
the last story in the book. I imagine many other readers will follow my
example. The novella begins only days after Eve's traumatic last case,
chronicled in Holiday in Death. One would think that the
lieutenant would be due some time off to recuperate, but when Judge
Harold Wainger's nude and mutilated body turns up on the ice in
Rockefeller Center, Eve knows that she has to take this case because she
knows who the killer is. Psychopath/ sociopath David Palmer. Four
years earlier, Eve had arrested him and Judge Wainger had sentenced him
to life imprisonment. But Palmer had broken out of jail, and now he had
a list of people who would pay: the judge, the prosecuting attorney, the
defense attorney, the psychiatrist and, of course, the arresting
"Midnight in Death" thus lacks the mystery element of Robb's other "In
Death" books. The plot centers on how many victims Palmer take out in
what horrible fashion before his final confrontation with Eve.
I am not sure that the novella format works especially well for the
Eve/Roark saga. I don't think I am alone in enjoying the books as much
for the relationship between the two and Robb's incredibly realistic
creation of an all too possible future world as for the mystery. The
short form does not allow for as much of the interpersonal relations or
setting descriptions that make the Robb books so compelling. Despite
these caveats, "Midnight in Death" did keep my interest, although Robb's
gruesome descriptions of the victims' fate are not for the faint of
heart. And they were certainly not what I expect in a Christmas
Since I assumed that all the stories in Silent Night were of a
type, imagine my surprise when I discovered that Claire Cross's
contribution was a lighthearted tale of one of Santa's elves who is
mechanically challenged. Holly Berry lives at the North Pole and like
all other elves, works in Santa's workshop making toys for all those
good little girls and boys. Unfortunately, Holly makes a mess whenever
she comes into contact with a machine.
Brought before Mr. C and Mrs. C after her latest disaster, Holly is
worried that she will be banished from the North Pole. But the Clauses
give her a chance to redeem herself. Young Natalie Sinclair has sent a
letter to Santa asking for a mommy for Christmas and all Holly has to do
is to go Toronto and arrange for Natalie's wish to come true.
Two Christmases before, Natalie's parents had been killed in a house
fire and she is being raised by her uncle Drew. Drew is interviewing
for a new nanny and has been unhappy with all the candidates until Miss
Holly Berry arrives on his doorstep. Holly's introduction to the world
of human beings is handled with a nice wit and her discovery of very
un-elf-like feelings for Drew make a nice story.
Dee Holmes' provides a second chance at love story as her contribution
to the anthology, "The Unexpected Gift." Sabrina McKay and her son Josh
are busy getting ready for Christmas, their first since Sabina's divorce
from her neglectful and cheating spouse, when Josh announces that there
is a dead man in their yard. The man is not dead, just passed out and
he is no stranger to Sabrina.
Six years earlier she had chosen to marry Robert Townshend even though
she and Zach had been lovers. Zach had refused to say he loved her or
to settle down and she had bowed to family pressure to marry the mayor's
son rather than live with the wild kid from the wrong side of town.
Zach had gone on to a career as a new photographer. What on earth was
he doing in her front yard? And what was she to make of the feelings,
long buried, that he caused.
Zach, at a crossroads in his life, doesn't quite know how he got to
Rutland and Sabrina, and, though he tries to leave, keeps getting drawn
back. Sabrina isn't about to let him ride out of her life a second
time. As I said, a nice second chance at love story.
Susan Plunkett's novella, "Christmas Promises" is more like the Robb
story, dealing as it does with domestic violence, the long lasting
trauma of rape, and the seamy side of life.
Four years earlier Marne York had broken off her engagement with Jake
Rimsa without any explanation. They had known each other since they
were teenagers and when she was seventeen and he was twenty, they had
promised to love each other forever. Now Jake has come to drive Marne
to a family Christmas celebration. But before they can leave, Marne
gets a phone call that has her rushing to County Hospital where she
finds Angela Tomari, beaten within an inch of her life. Angela begs
Marne to look for her daughter who had fled when her father had attacked
her mother. She also warns Marne that Julius plans to kill the woman he
blames for helping his wife escape from his clutches.
So Marne and Jake set out through the worst part of town to look for
Clarissa and Jake discovers that the happy, upper class woman he had
known has become a familiar figure on the streets he tried so hard to
escape. And he wants to know what changed her and why she left him. As
they work together, the barriers weaken and Marne tells Jake her
frightening story. He has to find a way to convince her that the
promises they made that long-ago Christmas still matter, as well as
protecting her from a killer. I enjoyed the Plunkett story and actually
wished it was the basis for a novel not a novella. But cheery and
happy? I don't think so!
I guess you can tell from the above descriptions that this anthology is
a strange mix for a Christmas release. I should have known; how often
do we see black covers on holiday books?