night train to memphis – vicky bliss mystery by elizabeth peters

Posted on July 5, 2010


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.

Posted in: mysterious