A Christmas Cracker (by Trisha Ashley)

I’ve read about half a dozen of Trisha Ashley’s novels over the past few years. They are the kind of book that’s ideal to read in a holiday period - undemanding and lightweight, but with interesting characters and satisfactory (if predictable) endings. So when I saw ‘A Christmas Cracker’ in a charity shop in September, with a snow scene on the cover, I thought it would be a good one to read before Christmas.

As with most of Trisha Ashley’s books, it took a few chapters for me to get used to the informal style, although as this is in the first person it was quite appropriate. Tabby is the narrator, a young woman who is a little gullible but very good-hearted. I was a tad confused when there was suddenly a switch of viewpoint - a chapter told from the perspective of a young man - but it was clearly marked and not a problem.

We meet Tabby when she’s telling her friend Kate about a scam she has discovered at her workplace. She’s not all that close to Kate, but she seems like a good listener, and someone who can be trusted. Unfortunately, Kate passes the news on; legally speaking, she should probably do so anyway, as Kate has made the mistake of not reporting it to the police. But she’s pretty sure her word wouldn’t be believed over that of her boss…

It’s an unusual start to a novel, and we next meet Tabby in prison, although the unpleasanter parts of prison life are glossed over, and her main worry is what has happened to her cat Pye. Happily, Tabby is rescued by a philanthropic and very lively elderly lady called Mercy, who offers her a job, and accommodation.

The main part of the story then involves Tabby (who is a talented artist) helping Mercy rescue her ailing cracker factory. Not the kind of crackers one eats with cheese, but Christmas ones, with paper hats and bad jokes. Her staff are elderly, and Mercy herself has been abroad; so the factory is losing money. And Mercy’s nephew, who will eventually inherit her home and the factory, wants to close it down and re-design the factory entirely.

While the title of ‘A Christmas Cracker’ is undoubtedly relevant to the storyline, the Christmas after Tabby arrives is only briefly mentioned in the final chapter. There are a few snowflakes during the final resolution, but the front cover is very misleading, as is the tagline on the front, ‘As the first snowflakes fall, anything is possible…’, which implies a storyline set in a snowy village over Christmas.

It’s not a major problem - the plot, once I got into it, was interesting although it was easy enough to put down. I liked Tabby, and I became very fond of Mercy. She’s a Quaker, with strong principles, and I thought very well portrayed; it gave an unusual slant to the story.

My only real problem is the usual one I find with this author - there’s really too much detail. Much of the book reads like day-to-day notes on what Tabby did, to pass the time, rather than adding in any way to the story.

However, overall it was a pleasant, easy read which was good to pick up at random times in between Christmas preparation. It would be a good book to take on a summer holiday, too, despite the pretty snow scene on the cover.

Review by copyright 2018 Sue's Book Reviews

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