Superintendent Runcorn--who Anne Perry fans will remember as William Monk's ex-boss--is feeling rather lonely during his holiday on the remote, snowy island of Anglesey, off the north coast of Wales. However, he is suddenly called into action when the sister of the local vicar is discovered murdered and draped over a gravestone in her brother's churchyard. Investigating this tragic crime with the assistance of the beautiful Melisande gives him just the opportunity he needs to spend time with an upper class woman who normally wouldn't give him the time of day. Interweaving the original Christmas story with her own holiday tale, Perry also explores the meaning of Joseph's secondary role compared to that of Mary and Jesus.
I have realised while I read this book that I’m reading them out of order (this is book fifth in the series and the third I read) hopefully I’m not loosing much because they don’t have the same main characters, the Monk series is also mentioned but with just enough detail for us to understand that Inspector Runcorn (the main character) is a secondary character there.
The story starts with Runcorn spending Christmas alone in the Island of Anglesey, he comes across as a sympathetic and vulnerable man who is trying to forget is love for Melisande Ewart. Unfortunately not only Melisande and her brother are also spending the holiday season at Anglesey but he is soon made known by her brother that she is engaged to be married.
While Runcorn is still trying to find a way to deal with his feelings of unexpectedly seeing Melisande again he finds Olivia Costain’s body, the vicar’s sister, who has been murdered. He is asked to help in the investigation and soon finds that Olivia was an attractive young woman with a restless spirit and a fair share of admirers that she kept turning down.
As he tries to dig deeper into who Olivia was and how could she have become a victim of a violent crime of passion Runcorn has to speak with Melisande, her friend, and her brother, one of Olivia´s admirers. He is constantly in a struggle with himself, wanting to ask the right questions but feeling himself not as social adept as to be able to speak without offending or breaking the polite rules of the Victorian world. He also has to face some prejudice against the lower classes he belongs to and the policeman work he does.
All in all it is an interesting story because Runcorn is complex, fragile, unsure of himself, much like all of us are one time or another. It’s his character and his musings that kept me reading, his views on murder and violence, his helpless love for Melisande and I was quite happy that he got the ending he thought was forbidden to him.
A nice read that made me want to continue the Monk series.