Posts Tagged ‘elizabeth peters’
Amelia Peabody’s Egypt is in trouble with the theft of a famous pharaoh. Is John Smythe at his old tricks again? It’s up to Vicky Bliss, art historian and amateur sleuth, to clear his name.
Did Elizabeth Peters really write this? By herself? Did Vicky Bliss die and an alien plant became human to take over her life, imperfectly, insufficiently? For everything about this Vicky falls short of the character from Borrower of the Night to Night Train to Memphis. What happened to the charm, sharp wit, and diabolical intelligence? Lost to the technological marvels of the 21st century?
Did Elizabeth make a cameo appearance?
Transplanted from 1994 (when the last Vicky Bliss was published) to 2008, Vicky Bliss along with John Smythe (master thief, lover, and frequent adversary) and Herr Dr. Anton Schmidt (museum director, bossy boss) often sound disoriented and out-of-character, clumsy where once she sizzled with energy.
To someone who adored the series, this was appalling.
I don’t buy the author’s explanation about the writer’s prerogative to play with time, allowing for inconsistencies. Fine. But was it an excuse to be lazy? Character integrity suffered big time. Vicky and John are supposed to be brilliant, and at the top of their professions, so why is he such a grumpy user of computers and Vicky ignorant? While Schmidt acts like a child who have never used emails and cell phones and now eagerly extolling their virtues.
Before I read Laughter I texted a fellow Vicky Bliss fan, asking how I can manage not having a Vicky Bliss Mystery to go home to anymore. I was sure I would suffer from withdrawal symptoms.
I should not have worried. I ended up cured. In fairness, I did enjoy the fencing match and riotous rescue near the end of the book.
Fooled! Vicky Bliss is more serious and vulnerable than she lets on in previous books. Her recent brushes with death have apparently left a deep mark, one she had been wrestling with through nightmares and fear of enclosed spaces. This really startled me, used as I am to Vicky’s nonchalance and sharp wit that have frequently and promptly put villains and danger in their places in the past.
In her latest adventure, a cruise down the Nile to Egypt’s Pyramids and royal necropolis, the historian-slash-sleuth gets the shock of her life when on-and-off lover John Smythe turns up with a wife. More shockers are in store as scorned Vicky takes off her kid gloves to unmask her greatest rival before he robs the Cairo Museum.
Country-Western Music meets Egyptian Antiquities – a most unlikely match. But it works.
The suspense here is in top form, and the danger more potent from the least likely sources. So much is happening on every page outside the apprehension of Vicky but which we can get hints of if we read carefully enough.
For a series labeled as cozy mystery, mostly characterized by ironic wit, it contains some of the most passionately romantic scenes I have ever encountered, the kind that snatches your breath away and leaves you wondering what just happened. Peters likes to keep her pen disciplined with these moments, though–stopping just when John steps out of the snowy whiteness to climb through Vicky’s window; or immediately shifting gears when he tracks Vicky out on the ship deck to deal her one of his cruelest hands.
Vicky’s boss, Herr Dr. Schmidt is also at his best here, combining comic sentimentality with clever plots to keep an eye on his favorite employee.
I’ve become really attached to Vicky Bliss and company. Rarely are there highly educated heroines in fiction these days who are also fun. With Night Train to Memphis, an era ended that A Laughter of Dead Kings is a poor attempt at a revival.
“How do you find these farcical characters?” – John Smythe. “He’s just jealous.” – ArtSeblis
In the heart of a festive Bavarian Christmas, a cast of characters must figure out where the Trojan Gold is. These treasure disappeared at the end of World War II. A bloody envelope containing a photo of a woman wearing the gold leads Vicky and company to a winter wonderland town. Amidst the Christmas cheer, is a murderer biding his or her time until Vicky leads him/her to the treasure?
Really, the more of Vicky Bliss I get the more I like her. I like her just somewhat at first, chuckling at instances of hilarity and smirking at the touches of romance. Then I read the second book, pleased that it was better. Addicted, I read the third and now with the fourth book I am happy to report that brainy historian Vicky is still sarcastic, but a little mellowed by the dangers survived in Silhouette in Scarlet; and John Smith, is as devious a thief as ever, but not so successful at it as his passion for Vicky gets in the way–that and he had to keep saving Vicky’s life.
If these two aren’t colorful enough, Anton Schmidt, head director of Munich’s Art Museum has grown from insignificant character of the first book to pudgy but tenacious sidekick to Vicky’s detective. The interaction between these two is as interesting, and funny, as the romantic tension between sleuth and thief.
Tony Peters, academic rival and romantic prospect in Borrower of the Night, makes a comeback, intent on putting one up over Vicky, proving he is her intellectual superior, which may finally convince her to marry him–he’s been pursuing her for years!
With this cozy mystery, romance does not take a backseat, but given a minimalist touch. I can imagine the author’s pen, immediately freezing just at the right moments to keep me wondering, and reading.
For years since the art heist Vicky foiled in Rome, the two have enjoyed a rather odd relationship. I think they invented ’complicated’ in personal status. Once a year he woos her with fake treasure, then leaves her in the lurch, with cops or crooks hot on his trail. This year, it’s a fake rose. a one-way ticket to Stockholm, and a cryptic message in Latin.
What is John up to this time?
Status Change. John Smythe is Master Thief to Cowardly Thief to Almost Hero.
In this sequel, Vicky gets to sharpen her claws, not only on her sometime-lover, oftentimes-adversary John but also on a gang of ruthless criminals. The game plays out on a remote island. Vicky has never been this close to getting killed before.
This is my favorite Vicky Bliss yet, because it offered me delightful insights into John’s character. He’s not a master thief after all but more like an opportunist who will run at the first sign of trouble. But it’s pretty obvious in the end that he’s crazy about Vicky.
A series of mysteries framed by this delightful interaction can become addicting. Who can resist following up the taming of the thief by the gorgeous historian? Or is it the other way around?
Vicky Bliss the series is not all fun and biting wit, though. The chase scene near the end is one of the best I have ever encountered, as if Vicky et al fell from a comedy sitcom into a dark and murderous world.
Silhouette in Scarlet is sequel to Borrower of the Night and Street of the Five Moons. First published in 2000, its cover had gone through several incarnations. It’s actually quite interesting to see the covers all together. What I don’t get is the cat. Vicky is a dog person.
Master Criminal to Brilliant Amateur Sleuth. A match made in Elizabeth Peters heaven.
John Smythe enters the picture, to the extreme annoyance of gorgeous and brainy Vicky Bliss. But they’re a perfect match, don’t you think? His thieving ways to her sleuthing, verbal footwork to her direct approach, and British stiff-upper lip to her American brash.
And both can con with the best of them.
She’s too tall and buxom? The lady doth protest too much.
Granted, she makes sure all her cons are within legal bounds, just like convincing her boss at the National Museum in Munich into letting her go to Rome, one of the most romantic cities on Earth, to investigate an art forgery.
To her delight, at the Street of Five Moons she realizes her fib was a sound assumption after all.
The clues lead her through Rome’s dusty antique centers and ancient monuments. Along the way, she gets kidnapped, rescued, then kissed soundly by one of the crooks–no other than John Smythe.
Feathers ruffled, Vicky ignores his warnings and hunts him down to the estate of Count Caravaggio. The question now is, is John planning to forge one of the Count’s treasures or is the Count in on it?
The sequel to Borrower of the Night is funnier and paced better. Historical trivia still dot the narrative but does not get in the way of the action as much as it used to in the first book. While the chemistry between master thief and amateur sleuth–antagonistic yet flirtatious–is obvious, spicing things up quite a lot.
I have every intention of following up to see it develop into something else.
The love talker is said to be a kind of fairy that appears to women in the woods, seduces them, and leaves them to pine to death. Laurie must find out, is there something in the woods?
And she must do so quickly or a beloved aunt may lose more than her sanity. On her return to Idlewood, a beloved family home deep in the Maryland woods, she finds that the woods are astir with more than the sounds and sights of nature. Distant piping breaks the snowy evening silence and glimpses of an otherworldly creature intrude on the otherwise idyllic life her aunts and uncle are leading in their old age.
Her brother Doug is also called upon to figure out if their dotty aunt Lizzie is really seeing fairies.
With mystery, humor, history, and eccentric characters, this classic Elizabeth Peters wraps up to an entertaining read. Laurie’s barbed wit led to one or two hilarious scenes while Doug’s too-slick-for-comfort bearing added another layer of misgivings to the plot. If a little predictable, as how hard can it be to guess with just a handful of suspects, and despite the slightly VC Andrews-feel in some parts, I still enjoyed reading this cozy mystery.
Elizabeth Peters specializes in cozy, but very fun, mysteries. This series no exception—It has all the ingredients we adore of a late-night-curl-before-the-fireplace-book (in my tropical home, a bedtime read with the electric fan on full blast): high on witty banter, oddball characters, a funny romance, and historical intrigue, which soon develops into something hairier.
A brainy and beautiful art historian. A treasure hunt. A medieval castle with secret passages. A battle of the sexes aka professional rivalry. An infatuated co-professor. And a possibly murderous, possibly ghost.
Vicky Bliss, college professor and ever competitive, gets entangled in a race to find a missing shrine by a famous 16th-century German sculptor. Never to back down from a challenge over intellectual superiority, especially one issued by an arrogant sometime-boyfriend male colleague, she travels to a medieval German castle in the town of Rothenburg following a scholarly hunch. The castle proves to be a vortex for a set of mock dilettantes and professional miscreants.
Vicky has to have all her wits, and wiles, about her to stay ahead of the game. And dig her way out of a crypt, and certain death, while she’s at it.
Despite being a brainy bombshell, Vicky is strangely naive at the effect she has on men, which resulted in quite a few misconceptions, and a funny last six pages. Reminded me of some old 60s and 70s comedy-mystery movies. The authentic history worked into the plot was cool, but with all that talk of facts and figures the pace sort of dragged there for a while.
Never mind, the catty dialogue got me through the slow parts. I love Vicky Bliss because she’s no Peggie Sue, thank God.
I hear from reliable sources that a master art thief will make a grand entrance in the sequel. I look forward to that. Outraged heroine versus hot villain interaction. I like Tony well enough, but he’s too much of a boy for Vicky.–she’ll remain a juvenile-ish geek if she sticks to him. But I have yet to see if this thief will be more than a match for her.
Will I succeed, when I’m so behind on my reading and blogging? Though not one for joining book challenges or memes I do like to set goals and stay true to resolutions. At the beginning of the year I declared that I would read 75 books this year (which would hardly make a dent on my 700+ TBR). I also noted the chunkster (or was it chunky?) and TBR challenges on some book blogs. I have to read four thick books (over 500 pages?) and 12 books from my TBR pile this year. For the TBR challenge, I can list 12 other titles if for some reason I can’t read a book from the original TBR list.
1.The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (done)
2.The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
3.The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Sotterfielf
4.The Sixteenth Pleasures by Robert Hellenga
5.Booked to Die by John Dunning
6.The Last Cato by Matilde Asansi
7.The Society of S by Susan Hubbard
8.The Nonesuch Lure by Mary Luke
9.Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
10.Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
11.The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
12.Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling
1.Vicky Bliss Mystery: Borrower of the Night by Elizabeth Peters (done)
2.Vicky Bliss Mystery: Street of the Five Moons by Elizabeth Peters
3.Vicky Bliss Mystery: Silhouette in Scarlet by Elizabeth Peters
4.Vicky Bliss Mystery: Trojan Gold by Elizabeth Peters
5.Vicky Bliss Mystery: Night Train to Memphis by Elizabeth Peters
6.Vicky Bliss Mystery: The Laughter of Dead Kings by Elizabeth Peters
7.Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
8.Inkspell by Cornelia Funke
9.Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke
10.The Secret Country: The Hidden Land by Pamela Dean
11.The Secret Country: The Whim of the Dragon by Pamela Dean
12.The Fire by Katherine Neville
Chunky / Chunkster
1.Labyrinth by Kate Mosse
2.Sepulchre by Kate Mosse
3.Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
4.The Talisman by Stephen King
By writing this down, did I hit on The Secret to reading challenges?
In the lists are books given or recommended by friends. I have delayed reading them long enough, and I am embarrassed at disappointing expectations of hearing my opinions on the books.
I also want to read 12 nonfiction books this year. So far, I’ve finished one, and on my way to finish three. I’m eyeing books related to work (content development and social media), grammar books, and travel lists. I’m not neglecting ang sariling atin as I also intend to read 6 by Filipino authors this year. On my shelves are titles by Robert Alejandro, GM Coronel, Carlos Malvar, Josefina Manahan, David Hontiveros, and LookslikeRein.
If putting down on paper, or blogging it, can help transform desire into reality, then maybe I will yet end 2010 winning these challenges.
10th in a series of 15 or 16 volumes–still counting, very likely (aaargh!), it’s about an archaeologist couple with a growing family coping with one Egyptian mystery after another. there’s romance, a master criminal with dark designs on the heroine, crocodiles, tombs, curses, and characters that begin off as aloof but grow on you. in this volume, a spurned woman is indeed the worst enemy there is.