Sunday, August 11, 2013

Elizabeth Peters' Vicky Bliss

When I heard about Elizabeth Peters passing earlier this week, I was reminded about how fast things change.  I was introduced to her work about 20 years ago and have several of her novels in paperback.  But just a few days before her death, I was able to get one of the books I had been wanting on my kindle.  Obviously to me, her books stand the test of time.

Elizabeth Peters, also known as Barbara Michaels, is best known for her Amelia Peabody series.  I read a few of those and enjoyed them but I absolutely love the Vicky Bliss Mystery novels.  Vicky is an art historian who works at the National Museum in Munich.  Her love interest in most of the books is John Smythe who is a thief.  He has a strong sense of self-preservation and even stronger fear of pain but he often ends up sacrificing himself to save Vicky.  The relationship between these two characters is what I like best about this series.  They are both sarcastic but charming.  I really enjoy their verbal exchanges.

Book 1 is Borrower of the Night.  This book introduces us to Vicky who is working at a small midwestern college.  She goes to Germany to discover a religious shrine that has been missing for hundreds of years.  Here she meets one of the characters that will play a major role in the future stories.  This is my least favorite of the series mostly because John Smythe is not in it but it is a good introduction to the series and it also sets the stage for the other novels.

Book 2 is Street of the Five Moons.  In this book, Vicky heads to Italy to find the person who created a replica of a famous piece of jewelry.   Here she meets John.  She also acquires Caesar, a overly affectionate doberman.  This was a good mystery.

Book 3 is Silhouette in Scarlet.  Vicky hasn't seen John in over a year but she receives a package with a plane ticket for Stockholm.  Her curiosity got the better of her and she heads to Sweden.  Here she meets a sweet old man who thinks Vicky is a distant relative of his.  Vicky realizes John had involved her in another risky scheme of his.  This book ends with John "dying" as he sacrifices himself to save Vicky.

Book 4 is Trojan Gold.  Vicky receives a bloodstained envelope and a photograph.  This leads her to search for gold that disappeared at the end of World War II.  Vicky places an ad in papers all over Europe to see if John will respond.  He does.  This is probably my second favorite book in the series.  At the end of the book, Vicky forces John to confess his love.  It is a fun scene.

Book 5 is Night Train to Memphis.  Vicky is lured onto a cruise as a guest speaker.  John appears newly married.  In her jealousy and anger, Vicky vows to discover and stop the thief of antiquities she knows John and his friends are plotting to steal.  John, of course, is trying to protect her.  This is my favorite book of the series.  You learn how much John is willing to do to protect Vicky.  There is also a very sweet scene where Vicky confesses her love for John.

Book 6 is The Laughter of Dead Kings.  This is the final book in the series and is was written about 35 years after the first book.  Times have changed.  Ms. Peters includes a forward that addresses the problem of having a series written over a number of years but is set in real time.  Basically, the reader just has to go with it.  John and Vicky are together and once again, get involved in a mystery.  A priceless Egyptian mummy has been stolen!  This is another good mystery.

If you like mysteries with a touch of romance, this is a great series.  Ms. Peters is an excellent writer.  She will be missed.

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