Saturday, October 28, 2006

Borrower of the Night

Borrower of the Night: The First Vicky Bliss Mystery

Elizabeth Peters

Date: 1973   —   $6.29   —   Book

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Fiction, Mystery

This is a classic setup. It has an ancient castle, a romantic ingénue, and a hidden treasure - not to mention a grasping aunt and multiple treasure-hunters. One of those hunters is Vicky Bliss, a statuesque blond with a brain. As this was written in 1973, this means that she not only has to put off ardent pursuers, but it means that she has to put up with people who think her beauty means she's dumb, and with guys who want her to give up her career and become a domestic wifey. No wonder she's a bit of a misandrist. (While there are still people who think this way, at least there are alternatives.)

Bliss is an art historian, and when the possibility of a lost sculpture by a famous artist presents itself, she has to enter the fray. The "fray" is in Germany, at a castle/hotel that is in considerable disarray. Somewhat suspiciously, the keys to the castle are given to her and her companion Tony, allowing them free run to search. Suspicion becomes dangerous as Tony and Vicki are alternately assaulted and spooked by such hoary chestnuts as the walking suit of armor. It's obvious that someone wants them to find the altarpiece - but it's not so obvious if they will be left alive afterward.

Vicky Bliss is entertaining if a bit strident to modern ears. Like many of Peterson's characters, she is easily distracted by art and history; one gets a sense that this is the best way to entertain the author herself.

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