Ballantine, Oct 27 2009, $18.00
In 1883 in London's dangerous East End, thirteen years old Gracie Phipps on an errand for Gran one week before Christmas meets a much younger urchin Minnie Maude Mudway, who says she is not lost. The child says Uncle Alf died and Charlie is missing and probably hungry, cold and frightened. Gracie keeps to herself the description probably applies to the emaciated Minnie.
Gracie decides to help Minnie find Charlie the donkey and learn how her uncle, a bone-and-rag dealer, died. The unlikely youthful sleuths investigate with the guidance of shopkeeper Mr. Balthasar. They learn Uncle Alf diverted form his normal path and his cart held a mysterious gold box that Mr. Balthasar warns them to be cautious as every fool loses their senses when it comes to gold; let alone what might be inside.
The seventh Christmas Victorian thriller is a terrific tale that brings to life the era and place through the two children, whose street smarts belie their age. The mystery mostly is used to enhance a look through the kids of life in the slums of late Victorian London during the holiday season. Fans of the author will enjoy what has become a Christmas tradition; an entreating Anne Perry historical.