December 1883. There's a chill in the air on the streets of East London but as Christmas approaches not everybody is wishing goodwill to all men.
When thirteen-year-old Gracie Phipps sees a young girl shivering on the street, she finds herself drawn into the search for Charlie, a missing donkey.
But as Minnie Maude Mudway talks, Gracie realises she has more to worry about than just the loss of the animal. Charlie disappeared the day before when Minnie's Uncle Alf, a rag and bone man, fell from his cart and died.
As the girls dig deeper into the events surrounding Charlie's disappearance, what starts off as a hunt for a lost donkey becomes something far more sinister as they realise Alf's fall may not be as accidental as it appears. With the help of wise Mr Balthasar, a local shopkeeper, can Gracie and Maude learn the truth about Alf's death - and find Charlie - without somebody else getting hurt?
.... From the inner, front cover.
First Sentence: The week before Christmas, the smell and taste of it was in the air, a kind of excitement, an urgency about everything.
Memorable Moment: It was a child's imagination, and she was old enough to face the real problems in the world, like cold and hunger, illness and how to pay for things.
The second book in my Christmas Reading Challenge.
I didn't really enjoy this novel which, at 152 pages, was described as a novella. To me it just didn't make too much sense. Uncle Alf is dead, possibly murdered, and here we have a family that is showing no signs of grief - indeed, most of them are more concerned about Charlie, a missing donkey. Then there are the conclusions that they jump to in order to solve the mystery, from seemingly nowhere and with no obvious evidence, they just seem to know certain things that help them piece together the puzzle.
As for the ending? Once again, the actions of the characters seem a little strange to me and result in an finish that is both sickeningly sweet and nonsensical.
The only thing I really liked about this was the name of certain characters - Minnie Maude Mudway and Jimmy Quick, terrific.
MY RATING: 2 out of a possible 5.
(To view the first book read in the Christmas Reading Challenge, click HERE.)