By Robert Lee Hall
Pine Street Books (University of Pennsylvania Press) - November 2001
ISBN: 081221790X - Paperback
Mystery / Historical - 1757, London

Reviewed by: Rachel A Hyde, MyShelf.Com
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This is the second of Pine Street Books' reprints of Robert Lee Hall's Benjamin Franklin series and sees young Nicholas Handy, formerly the wretched orphan skivvy to Inch, Printer safe in the bosom of his natural father and preparing for Christmas. The pair has been invited to spend the Christmas Eve with merchant Roderick Fairbrass and his family but, unknown to the rest of the Fairbrasses, his daughter Cassandra has already visited Franklin with a tale of having seen a ghost. When tragedy strikes during the mumming play and Roderick is killed, it is up to the intrepid pair to find out whodunit and enjoy Christmas as best they can…

This is a charming depiction of a mid-18th century Christmas complete with a kissing bough and mummers' play of St George that is sure to make great seasonal reading. The plot is by turns baffling and finally very thrilling indeed and again there is a strong Dickensian flavor seasoning the whole tale that makes for enjoyment and a full, well-rounded story. To its detriment, the depiction of Franklin has turned from portraying a kindly Pickwickian fellow to someone more resembling a saint as he wins money and hands it back to a ruined man, then goes in for more than one daring deed that would make newspaper headlines today. Factual accounts of the great man shows him to be rather more of a human sinner than this, and thus the paean of praise needs to be toned down for historical accuracy. This notwithstanding, this is a highly enjoyable read and I do hope we can look forward to more reprints from this entertaining series.

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