Return of the Magi by P. J. Tracy

return of the magiI’m not normally one for Christmas stories I have to admit but a short story by P. J. Tracy (who writes the Monkeewrench series, which I love) was too good to pass by.

Unlike her other books, this one isn’t set in Minnesota but in Las Vegas, where Emil – a not very good thief – is given the choice of returning to jail for two years after breaking the conditions of his probation, or, work for a year on a community programme.

He chooses the latter, only to find himself in what seems worse than prison – a psychiatric hospital, where he finds himself mopping the floors and helping the patients; he starts to look for a way to escape almost as soon as he arrives.

Help comes in the unlikely form of two elderly sisters who believe they are two of the three kings that go to find baby Jesus – Emil, they are convinced, is the third.  And it is their mission, now he has arrived, to go find the baby and fulfil their purpose in life.

If it all sounds a little sickly sweet, it isn’t at all.  In fact, it’s funny and clever and – as the tagline says – “heartwarming”.  It’s a story of love and redemption and how we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, that we all have chances in life to do the right thing and it’s never to late too take those chances.  I thought it was great.

I loved the writing style (though I always do with P. J. Tracy), the story itself, and the characters.  Emil isn’t a bad guy, despite his tendency to steal people’s wallets, and the sisters (Gloria and Edith) are wonderful – charming and just the right amount of off-the-wall.  Then there is the grumpy probation worker, Foster, who needs to find his own form of redemption just as much as Emil.  It all works really well together to make for a great short story, perfect for the holiday season.  Loved it.


About the book…

Warm your heart this Christmas with this wonderful festive tale from bestselling author P.J. Tracy – perfect for fans of It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street. Emil Rice has a silver tongue and sticky fingers, the only problem is that his charm always gets him into trouble and he’s never been very good at not getting arrested. Twenty-two times he’s been caught and twenty-two times he’s sworn never to steal again, but it’s on his twenty-third arrest when Emil realises he may have picked up more than he bargained for. Sentenced to community service at a secure mental health facility, Emil is unwillingly befriended by two elderly female patients who believe he is the final part of a big cosmic plan that will change their lives forever… This heartwarming Christmas tale of kindness, friendship and redemption will be perfect for the cold winter nights!

Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Penguin UK
Pages: 170
Format: ebook
Publication date: 15th November, 2017
Find on Goodreads

Note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.


  1. yup a psychiatric hospital can be a very sad place to be! I don’t read many Christmas books either, only when my kids want me to read them for them but this one sounds good!


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