Monday, August 10, 2009

Borrower of the Night (Vicky Bliss #1)

The title: Borrower of the Night
The author: Elizabeth Peters
Publication: HarperCollins, 1973
Got it from: Chapters

There have been few authors as consistently enjoyable for me as Elizabeth Peters. I am still working my way through the brilliant Amelia Peabody series, but a crazy notion (must be the August heat) had me reaching for Vicky Bliss instead. I'm sorry I haven't tried reading the Vicky Bliss series earlier. Vicky's no Amelia Peabody, but she's a pretty bad-ass modern counterpart.

Peters is the master of the romantic comedy mystery, no matter which era. As usual, the mystery is enjoyable but takes second place to the (sarcastic, wonderful, lovable) main characters. This book was written in 1973, but remains fresh 36 years later. Vicky is an American professor - tall, blonde, buxom and determined not to marry. Like Jacqueline Kirby, Peters' other droll heroine, Vicky flirts and spars with her male counterparts but rejects them all in favour of her independence at the end (though not without a bit of self pity. As she runs for help at the end of the novel, she muses in what may be one of the best paragraphs I've ever read: "I was sick. I was thirsty. I was all covered with dirt, and nobody loved me.") Supposedly she takes on a lover later in the series, someone more worthy of her. I can't wait.

The mystery feels a bit Agatha Christie-ish, with some Indiana Jones thrown in. Vicky and some of her university colleagues go to Germany in pursuit of long-lost shrine. A crumbling medieval castle plays a large role, as does the ubiquitous knife-wielding suit of armor. Of course it's all very silly, with moonlit chases in graveyards and fainting damsels, but I ain't complainin'. There's something comforting about a good mystery on a thunderstorming summer night (and we've had one every night for about a week). I am very much looking forward to reading more Vicky Bliss.

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