Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What the Love!

Elizabeth Peters’ has her most famous Egypt-trekking sleuth, Amelia Peabody. She has her chain-smoke ex-librarian, and my personal favorite, Jacqueline Kirby. Then she has this third sleuth I’ve never read named Vicky Bliss. Not quite sure what her hook is. Lastly, Peters has a number of stand-alones where she can continues to play with her writing, creativity, humor, and strong brushes of various oddball-ness.  It all coalesce into something right on the brim of thought-provoking, but only if you pay close attention.  I've long learned that an Elizabeth Peters book asks more from the reader than what's at face value.  Her books may be humorous and eccentric, but there's a darker commentary present that usually relays the ugly side of human behavior.  Though that commentary doesn't take itself too seriously.

This is all evident in her stand-alone novel, The Love Talker. And it seems the topic of The Lover Talker revolves around Irish fairy lore. Nevertheless, let me back up just a second to run down what The Love Talker is about.

A student name Laurie is spending her winter in Chicago to write her dissertation. Not quite the quietest places for focus; Laurie appreciates the opportunity to borrow a friend’s apartment, as well as stay within close proximity of the local university’s “excellent” library. Then, of course, there’s a particular man she’s trying to avoid back home. However, sadly, Laurie can’t focus in Chicago. Like clockwork, she receives a letter from her family home. A home called Idlewood, deep in the Maryland forest. Her great-aunts and uncle sends for her and her half-brother, Doug, with suggestions of urgency. One aunt is coming close to senility, seeing fairies and lights in the surrounding forest. Having been away from the home since her childhood–and seeing how her dissertation isn’t coming along–Laurie decides to return to Idlewood.

At first, everything in Idlewood seems quiet. Then Laurie begins to see the lights and hear the music coming from the surrounding woods. Are her great-aunt’s claims of fairies real, even as she presents evidence? Or is something a little more fiendish, clever, and human out to torment Laurie’s aunt for his or her own selfish reasons.

So what exactly is a Love-Talker? According to Irish mythology, the Love-Talker, or gancanagh, is a male fairy known for trampling around freely through Irish countryside. Should a woman of any kind encounter him, she instantly falls under his spell-casting seductions. Under the belief that it’s love, these women end up killing themselves (many in fashions differ from physical suicide). If they can no longer connect with the Love-Talker, this "death" is the only option available to them. Think a lethal version of Laura Branigan’s “Fool’s Affair” song. Or not quite.

And that is exactly where I'm going to leave this post.  I'm not saying anything further, other than The Love Talker is Peters's usual twisted, odd-churning mystery.  She reached a few lengths here that differ from my previous experiences with her, but I found The Love Talker interestingly enjoyable in the end.  There's illegal affairs.  Ugly family secrets.  A man controlled by his religion.  A trio of elderly people blazing for humor and irritation.  And a trio of pre-pubescent sisters who vary in ages and personalities–some of which are a little more destructive than the other.  The whole while, you never know who to trust.  Sometimes I even thought Laurie was in on the gag, which would've been a blindside I would have no choice but to surrender to if it were true.  And that's a good thing, because I didn't quite grasp what Peters was up to.  I just knew it was something kooky.  With the catastrophic setting of snow surrounding an old mansion, it all could've went in multiple directions.  

If you decide to check this one out, then I'm going to keep this one a (vague) surprise.  Much like Peters does over and over again in her books.

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