Showing posts with label Elizabeth Peters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Elizabeth Peters. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Amelia Peabody Series is Wrapped

"Banned forever from the eastern end of the Valley of the Kings, eminent Egyptologist Radcliffe Emerson's desperate attempt to regain digging rights backfires—and his dream of unearthing the tomb of the little-known king Tutankhamon is dashed. Now Emerson, his archaeologist wife, Amelia Peabody, and their family must watch from the sidelines as Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter "discover" the greatest Egyptian treasure of all time.

But the Emersons' own less impressive excavations are interrupted when father and son Ramses are lured into a trap by a strange group of villains ominously demanding answers to a question neither man comprehends. And it will fall to the ever-intrepid Amelia to protect her endangered family—and perhaps her nemesis as well—from a devastating truth hidden uncomfortably close to home . . . and from a nefarious plot that threatens the peace of the entire region."

The day is over. The Amelia Peabody series is over. Or, at least, my journey reading them. I closed out and finished the final entry–per the proper timeline–Tomb of the Golden Bird. I can not say it was the best entry in the series, but it had all the fixings to be one with the opening of King Tut's tomb. And for once, Amelia Peabody actually went into a tomb and explored. I stress this because it always frustrated me how Amelia was not also slipping into a tombs. Instead she often stayed outside and sifted through debris. Stuff like that, anyway. Though, of course, Amelia Peabody is so much more than all those things combined. Otherwise, I wouldn't have stuck with reading the series for nine years.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Almost at the End of the Amelia Peabody Experience

So I'm writing this post while listening to Eric Carmen's "Hungry Eyes." The song is befitting my mood–seeing as I'm trying to decide if I want to read the final Amelia Peabody mystery, Tomb of the Golden Bird. Because once this book is read, this will be the end of my journey reading Elizabeth Peters’ famous Victoria-era Egyptologist series. It’s been nine years since I cracked open the first book, The Crocodile on the Sandbank; 20 books later, my adventures with Peabody and crew are ending.

It's more complicated than not, but Peters took many liberties in adjusting the timeframe in the series. The final two publication releases, A River in the Sky and The Paint Queen, officially close the series out at twenty books. However, per the precise timeline, the final book is Tomb of the Golden Bird. I corrected the order from books sixteen forward. Now I've landed at the series' end and in proper sequence.

The problem is that, while I’ve decided to finally finish this series THIS year (I want to move on to reading Peters’ Vicky Bliss series next), I’m feeling some type of way about taking on the final book as it lies here in my hands.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Book Raiding Reading TBR

I only read two books in September.  One was–undoubtedly–the latest J. D. Robb release, Leverage in Death.  The other was Tracy Clark’s Broken Places–which I wrapped on the 11th of the month.  And that’s it.  Nothing read since the 11th.  And that’s mainly because Shadow of the Tomb Raider came out the following day and it has consumed my life.  Both in good–considering I’m a long-time fan and veteran of the Croft–and wrong ways.  Nonetheless, a game such as this pulled me entirely away from my first passion: books.  However, I’ve already read about 60 books this year, so I think it’s okay for me to take it easy from here on out if I choose to.

But I just can’t do it like that.  I have to read.  I MUST be reading.  I covet and crave books.  Even when I’m not actively reading a book, I’m pausing to touch a book and rifle through the pages just for comfort.

So I decided to make myself an Book Raiding TBR.  I choose unread books from my shelves that’ll cover 5 areas that I love most about the Tomb Raider series (both old and rebooted).  One: Crafty Female Lead.  Two: Sprinkles of Mythology.  Three: Survival Adventures.  Four: Ancient Musty Tombs.  Five: History and Relics.  This TBR will work.  And it will stick.  And it will bring me back to reading daily.

On a photography assignment in the northern territory of Mount Marsabit, American adventuress Jade del Cameron and her friends hope to film the area's colossal elephants. Instead, they discover the mutilated remains of four elephants and a man. Although the authorities suspect Abyssinian poachers and raiders in search of ivory and slaves, Jade has her own suspicions. Could it have been Harry Hascombe, her nemesis and unremitting suitor? Soon the Kikuyu boy accompanying her is captured by slave traders. Ultimately, it will take all of Jade's mettle to rescue her guide from slave traders, protect the animals, and expose another kind of beast.
As of today (October 1st) I’m already 140 pages away from the end of the first book on my Book Raiding TBR, Stalking Ivory by Suzanne Arruda.  Last time I read a book in this series was as far back as 2014.  More or less moved by that entry [Mark of the Lion], I haven’t picked up anything by this author since.  However, last year I did purchase the following three books for potential future reading.  And here I am finally jumping back into African safaris during the 1920’s with Arruda’s bold and sharp war vet (does being a nurse in WWI count as a vet?) turned photographer Jade Del Cameron.  Though Arruda’s plotting often comes across as “random” and “rash,” I’m having fun.  I can definitely see this series sticking around after all.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Elizabeth Peters' Laughing Mummy Case

By this book we’ve established that British socialite turn Egyptologist, Amelia Peabody, is a wife and mother.  A series told in her first-person narrative, it's clear this life change is an adjustment of sorts.  Especially from the solitary life she led in the first book.  Now Amelia, her husband Radcliffe, and their four-year-old son heighten the thrill of her adventures.  As well as comedy.
As for the third book, The Mummy Case, Amelia’s infamous archaeologist and Egyptologist husband has been invited to a pyramid excavation.  Or, to be clear, he’s prompted dispatched to sniffle among the rubble of an abandoned excavation.  Somewhat at arms length, archaeologist in his profession never really wants him around.  He’s known as the “Father of Curses,” and is thus better left on the outskirts of any great discovery.  
Angered by this, Amelia’s husband decides to take on the "rubble" task anyway.  Gathering his wife and son, he ships his family out of England and into Egypt.  There may be nothing in and on this barren excavation handed to him, but he’ll make do to prove something to the rejecters of his talents as an archaeologist.  He has his pride and dignity after all, as well as a crew of shaky–but fiercely loyal–crewmen.  
But matters get choppy when his wife starts snooping around the crime scene of an antiques dealer she recently visited, for a scrap of papyrus.  Then an excavated Mummy case goes missing.  A suspicious Christian fellowship begins banning citizens together in the nearby village, but with their own secrets of abuse to hide.  An equally suspicious gang made up of Egyptian men are boiling for a fight to kick the fellowship out of their village.  And, eventually, Emerson, Amelia, and Ramses find themselves buried in the well of a pyramid.  While a killer runs loose covering his tracks.
Sounds like a lot, right?  Well, it’s an adventure that shouldn’t be missed!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

#MarchMysteryMadness | Challenge #7: The Baggage Claims

2015 saw no indulgence in the late Elizabeth Peters' infamous Amelia Peabody Egypt-romping mysteries.  A mild disappointment for an even better savory return.  You see, I was a little disheartened when I wrapped up Peters’ Jacqueline Kirby series last year (Naked No More post).  And I unsuccessfully turned over three bookstores for the first book in Peters' Vicky Bliss series–to fill Kirby's void.  And yet I’ve–for whatever reason–neglected Amelia Peabody all the while.  That's kind of bad when it was her character who got me into Peters' writing in the first place.  
If I confused someone, Peters wrote three individual series with three different female protagonists.  And each with an equally independent background.  And it’s the background these women peruse to solve their given mysteries.
Ex-librarian, Jacqueline Kirby, chain-smokes while delivering "innocent" snarks.  Yet, she has an observational majesty like no other.  Sometimes, I believe she knew the given culprit before the first page of her four adventures.
Vicky Bliss–from my researched understanding–is an eccentric blond who often isn’t taken seriously.  Until one takes into account her doctorate; she’s an art historian.  (I have yet to experience her character and how she performs in a mystery.  INSERT SAD FACE HERE.)
Then there’s Amelia Peabody, Peters’ most popular lead and long-standing series star.  Coming from an esteemed and wealthy Victorian family, Peabody is the sole heir to her deceased father’s fortune.  She uses her inheritance to flip between the high falutin Victorian life and hollow Egyptian tombs.  Her passions lie in Egyptology, and she's the first to let the reader know all about her study.
So what do these three women of Peters’ have in common?  I mean, besides intelligence and the self-appointed credence to attach themselves to solving murders?  What makes a reader craze each of their individual stories?  
It’s their dry wit and humor, wrapped in murders and history.  But let's picture "dry wit" so I can give an idea of what anyone new to Peters' work could look forward to.  So, you ever criticize someone and have that individual laugh at the criticism because it goes far above his or her head to recognize the verbal stab?  That's one display of dry wit.  Or have you ever slashed someone with sarcasm which slipped out as if it was a joke?  Only... you weren't really joking.  That's another.  Or, to just get down to the nitty-gritty, do you THROW SHADE without flinching?
Now granted–as I said–I haven’t read any of the Vicky Bliss mysteries.  However, I know Elizabeth Peters and I know why I love reading her books.  It’s because she writes these type of women characters; witty, strong-willed, hyper-intelligent, and courageous.
And that’s what I miss.  So I'm taking Challenge #7 to get back into Peabody’s humorous adventures.  Picking up where I left off with the third book in her series, The Mummy Case.

Mystery Madness
Mystery Madness 2 members 2016 March Mystery Madness Challenge Group. More details to follow.

Books we've read

View this group on Goodreads »

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.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Dollar Tree Mini Haul

A casual stroll through one of my local Dollar Trees led me to these two $1 books I want to share. I’ve been giving myself slaps on the wrist on and off about buying books while I have a stack at home. Only because… well… there’s no good enough excuse why when I don’t really feature book buying bans. Nonetheless, the crux of the story is I walked into the Dollar Tree with no intentions of buying books, and came out with coconut water and two desperately needed titles.  (Along with a few crossword puzzle books for the Grandma.)

So what are they and who wrote them? Let’s see…

Narcopolis is written by an India author named Jeet Thayil (never heard of him, but I’ll tell you why I decided to pick this one up). As for its synopsis, I’ll copy and paste it via Goodreads because it's late and I'm winding down.
Shuklaji Street, in Old Bombay. In Rashid's opium room the air is thick and potent. A beautiful young woman leans to hold a long-stemmed pipe over a flame, her hair falling across her dark eyes. Around her, men sprawl and mutter in the gloom, each one drifting with his own tide. Here, people say that you introduce only your worst enemy to opium.

Outside, stray dogs lope in packs. Street vendors hustle. Hookers call for custom through the bars of their cages as their pimps slouch in doorways in the half-light. There is an underworld whisper of a new terror: the Pathar Maar, the stone killer, whose victims are the nameless, invisible poor. There are too many of them to count in this broken city.

Narcopolis is a rich, chaotic, hallucinatory dream of a novel that captures the Bombay of the 1970s in all its compelling squalor. With a cast of pimps, pushers, poets, gangsters and eunuchs, it is a journey into a sprawling underworld written in electric and utterly original prose.

I picked Narcopolis up because I have a severe shortage of India writers in my library. After reading India Calling back in February, and having yet purchased my copy of Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, I figured Narcopolis would be a bridge between the two. Or something to that extent.

The second book, The Love Talker, was written by Elizabeth Peters. I hesitated for just a moment with this one, because I knew Peters was big on writing multiple series; I didn't know where this one fit.  So I stood there and read through her books listed in the opening pages.  I had to be certain this book wasn’t apart of her Amelia Peabody, Vicky Bliss, or Jacqueline Kirby series.  I have to read my series in order, and would hate to buy a book somewhere in the middle of a series I haven't even started (to be clear, I haven't read any Vicky Bliss books).  Luckily, The Love Talker is a complete stand-alone.  Which made the buying process even better.

Here's its synopsis according to Goodreads:

Laurie has finally returned to Idlewood, the beloved family home deep in the Maryland woods where she found comfort and peace as a lonely young girl. But things are very different now. There is no peace in Idlewood. The haunting sound of a distant piping breaks the stillness of a snowy winter's evening. Seemingly random events have begun to take on a sinister shape. And dotty old Great Aunt Lizzie is convinced that there are fairies about -- and she has photographs to prove it. For Laurie, one fact is becoming disturbingly clear: there is definitely something out there in the woods -- something fiendishly, cunningly, malevolently human -- and the lives of her aging loved ones, as well as Laurie's own, are suddenly at serious risk.

Needless to say, I'm pretty thrilled.  I just have to sit my ass down and actually READ.  Other than that, 'preciate it Dollar Tree for having books for $1.

Have you found any interesting surprises Dollar Tree/General or Family Dollar stores?  Share them if you will. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Naked Jacqueline Kirby

Jacqueline Kirby is back for the final time in Naked Once More. For her last murder mystery, Kirby has settled with becoming the popular, bestseller author of two books. Her ex-librarian days are behind her, and it’s time to keep her winning momentum with a third book. She has ideas. She has potential drafts.  She has the will. However, she’s not 100% sure of her direction, until her literary agent calls her for lunch to discuss a project that may be worth her efforts.

Kathleen Darcy collected millions off her debut novel, Naked in the Ice. From her publisher's advance, a movie deal, and heavy promotion, she’s created just enough wealth to take care of her family.  This also provides her leeway (as well as pressure) to start on her second novel. With an outline partially at hand, matters seem promising until a string of "accidents" start to happen to Kathleen. Accidents so frequent that Kathleen soon finds herself driven over a cliff.  Her body unfound, the locals and her family label her fate as suicide.

Seven years later, Kathleen’s agent, family, and family attorneys have come together to audition and interview a few popular authors for the task of completing Kathleen's second book. And that's where Jacqueline Kirby’s agent shoots her the idea of taking a part in the auditions. It would be perfect for Jacqueline’s career–so he says. While it took some heavy convincing to the forever cynical Jacqueline, she eventually nails the project.  Afterwards, she decides to temporarily relocate to Kathleen’s town to dig into the late author’s files, and uncover everything she needs to produce the sequel properly. Unfortunately, a stream of accidents begins to happen to Jacqueline as well. Accidents meant to stop Jacqueline from uncovering some of Kathleen’s secrets. On the other hand, maybe something else entirely.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Die For Love

Oh the fun you'll have with Jacqueline Kirby. I just concluded her third adventure in Die for Love with continued love in my heart [snicker]. In Die for Love Jacqueline damn near spontaneously decides she’s tired of the Nebraska scene and jets off to New York to attend an annual Historical Romance Writers of the World convention. She’s bored, so it only seems reasonable she packs up and leaves. Nonetheless, the convention holds a strange bunch, besides the many adoring romance readers fawning over the panels filled with prodigious romance writers. No, see the fans are only half of what makes this convention crazy.  There’s the squatty and militant super agent–and corner-holder of the romance market–Hattie. Her prize possession is a top-selling romance writer named Valerie Valentine; and Valerie may be knock-dead gorgeous, but she’s also docile and icy. Next to her is her ever more energetic and forceful business partner (of sorts) named Max. Twirl around to the left and you have an old friend of Jacqueline’s named Jean. Jean is in academia, but disguises herself to save the face of her credentials. She doesn't want to risk losing tenure because of the criticism involved with writing romance novels–one criticism in particularly focused on rape. Then there’s Victor, one of few male romance writers. He cajoles with another writer named Sue.  Sue's just starting out in the game, and inadvertently becomes Jacqueline's hotel roomie. A few others litter the plot, but you get the point: everybody has a story as well as a motive to the upcoming killings.

Oh, but wait! There are those who are trying to expose and defame the romance field and its authors. One being a big, brass columnist named Dubretta; the other, Betsy, is an activist against the masculinist lean found in the romance genre.

Then there’s the hyper-fanatic willing to do anything for Valerie Valentine, including assault and robbery. She’s a rich kid with a tempered addiction to pills. Her name is Laurie.

Jealousy, pride, lust, long secrets, and greed are only a few methods of categorizing this large cast and their motives regarding one another.

Nevertheless, out of the many individuals named, two of them don't make it out of the convention alive. Jacqueline immediately employs her investigative hat (as well as her bottom-less, oversize handbag) to solve the crime. And, in between doing so, writes a romance book herself.

Somewhere toward the middle I found Die for Love a labor to get through.  It all was worth it just for Jacqueline, who was still present and oneself a lot more than in the past two books. I’m not sure where the tedium came through, though. The mystery aspect left me questioning, but a few general guesses had me close to home. Even so, the real exhibit in Die for Love is Elizabeth Peters’ view of the romance genre–or a view funneled through her protagonist.  

There's an outer dialogue bubbling out of Die for Love.  You may catch it through the eccentric cast (which isn't so unusual when you review the theme and cast of the past two books), or the desperate romance-reading fanatics.  This next passage is probably a sum up of the conversation.  Once I read it I immediately jumped to whether or not this is still present in the romance genre of today–as opposed to the 80s when this book was published.  Then I thought about a few authors–particularly those in the urban fantasy genre–and I realized that it is still present.

"By the time the forum ended, her [Jacqueline] brain was teeming with ideas and what an uneasy feeling that Betsy and the Woofasses might be right after all.  Several editors had warned that their heroines must be "liberated," independent women, proud of their own sensuality.  So far, so good; Jacquline had no quarrel with that.  But the same editors had warned against promiscuity.  Was it more liberated to be overpowered against one's will than to seek amorous adventures (the phrase had been used by one of the more old-fashioned editors) for the sheer fun of it?  The word 'love' kept cropping up.  The heroines were all monogamous, in intent if not in actuality, and the happy ending consisted of capturing the hero and making him monogamous too.  the books were anti-feminist, and anti-female, not only because of their prurient interest in rape but because they voiced the tired old moral view (invented and enthusiastically supported by most men) that a woman's only legitimate goal in life was to devote all her time, energy, and sexual abilities to one man.  So far as Jacqueline could see, the only difference between the new romances and the old love stories was that 'love' had replaced marriage as a prerequisite for sex."

I really had to think on that.  I don't read romance, but it did stir some thoughts as to why I don't.  And really it boils down to how I dislike women characters even mildly submissive and considerate to the man's point first.  From a personal angle, I look at love and relationships as companionships first.  Or a team.  So what do you think the passage?  Is it true?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Confused with Richard the III

Here we are with this three-book omnibus collection of Elizabeth Peters’ Jacqueline Kirby mystery series. Except now, we're on book two, The Murders of Richard III. For my thoughts on the first book in the series, The Seventh Sinner, click HERE.

The Murders of Richard III begins with librarian Jacqueline Kirby strolling through London’s National Portrait Gallery with an old colleague and friend, Thomas Carter. While it’s somewhat fun to discuss portraits and argue with Jacqueline about England’s Parliament, War of the Roses, Lancastrian kings, and Bishop of Bath and Wells, Thomas's true agenda is to arouse Jacqueline to a attend costume party.  It's a distinct type of party, populated by a group of Ricardians. (“…not to be confused with the followers of the economist, David Ricardo.”) The Ricardians are a mix of individuals with an interest (or obsession, really) in Richard III and his history. So much so that they gather together for a costume party where each portrays a certain individual surrounding the history of Richard III. And while that may seem all fun and games, the latest truth is that the group has discovered a letter from Elizabeth of York, Richard’s niece. The contents of the letter are to be revealed during the costume party, and Thomas would like Jacqueline to attend as a port of authority. According to him, she’s intelligent, aware, and critical enough to spot a fake; errors in vocabulary, spelling, and the paper itself are clues for Jacqueline. Jacqueline is more or less amused by Thomas’s proposition, but decides to go. And here begins the English country house mystery where party members of the Richardians begin to experience “accidents” related to their historical characters' respective deaths and murders.

So, The Murders of Richard III and how Jacqueline Kirby smokes (both literally and figuratively) her way through solving an old English country house mystery straight out of the golden age of detective fiction. The twist is that this English country house is the setting for a costume party featuring a number of eccentric people dressed as historical individuals once intimate to Richard III of England (of course the host dressed as Richard III himself). And before you even attempt to give Jacqueline's second outing a go, bring a pen and paper to make character notes.  Oh, as well as an encyclopedia that covers all subjects pertaining to Richard III, King of England. Why? Because that is where the problems come in.

There are over ten–yes, ten–characters/suspects fitted into this tight little country house setting. Each of them come from a variety of different backgrounds. One is a doctor. Another is an actor. You have a family. A beautiful young woman. Oh, a man of religion. A jerk who does nothing but eats. And, well, you might as well consider the Butler. Nonetheless, the list kind of goes on. The issue is that 90 percent of the characters featured in The Murders of Richard III are costumed as historical people. Therefore, they are repeatedly addressed (within the narrative as well as between one another) as not only their real names (sometimes interchanged with their first or last name, which increased the confusion), but also the names of the historical figures they represent. Those names are frequently repeated, and untethered by any comprehensible history for your average reader to take stock upon to differentiate any difference. Furthering the confusion is how some characters even share the names of historical figures–or at least it appears so in some points of the dialogue. Nonetheless, slowly, very slowly, you’ll get the hang of things. Or, like me, your subconscious may automatically kick in and divide the difference for you through a string of mnemonic tricks.

Honestly, that’s the only problem I had with the book. I can say that even with the abundance of available culprits, I guessed the correct one immediately after the first "accident". Nonetheless, surprises and reconsiderations were definitely in store as Jacqueline smart-mouthed her way through. And the breakdown at the end, where Jacqueline deconstructs the entire mystery while others stood along to contest her ideas, made me cry out for the ability to produce the same.  It was that old-fashioned (in a very good way) and slick of a mystery.  And once again, I'm reminded as to why I like Jacqueline Kirby a little more than Peters' most popular sleuth, Amelia Peabody.  I'm two books into each series, and I got a feeling Jacquline will shuttle her way in next.

Kirby Highlights

Because–like Martha Grimes' Emma Graham–I love these slick-mouthed women in mysteries, I want to highlight some of my favorite moments of Jacqueline Kirby.

"Jacqueline was regarding the portrait with a fixed stare.  Her horn-rimmed glasses rode high on her nose, but she had left the rest of her tailored working costume at home.  She wore a short, clinging dress of her favorite green; the short sleeves and plunging neckline displayed an admirable tan.  Tendrils of bronze hair curled over her ears and temples.  Without turning her head, she spoke.  The voice could not by any stretch of the imagination be called mellow."

Nope.  Jacqueline is hardly ever mellow.
"'Okay, I guess I've got them sorted out.  Thomas, do you realize what this is?  It's an English house party, darling, straight out of all those British detective stories I revel in.  These people are classic characters.  They couldn't be better if you had invented them.  The doctor, the vicar, the village squire; the catty middle-aged hags and the sulky, beautiful young heroine, and the two juveniles–homely and nice, handsome and rakish.  This is one missing.  But I suppose it would be too much–'"

Jacqueline, always regarding people and situations with an honest observation.
"'I don't think, I know,' said Jacqueline.  She added parenthetically to Thomas, 'There is no point in being subtle with him, Thomas.  Now, Percy, go away.  Don't ever come in here again without knocking and waiting for permission.  If you do, I will belt you one–as we crude Americans are wont to say.'

'You wouldn't dare...' Percy stood up.

'But you can't be sure.  Taking chances lends variety and interest to life.'

Percy began to look trapped.  'I'll tell them you've got Thomas in here.  I saw you drag him in.  My mother would like to hear that.'

Jacqueline laughed.

'What a little horror you are,' Thomas said.  'If young Edward was anything like you, it's no wonder he was smothered.'

'You're wasting words,' Jacqueline said.  'Never tell them more than once.  Never bluff.  Act.'

She rose and advanced purposefully on Percy, who proved her point by retreating, at full speed, and without further comment."

As seen, Jacquline is not one to play with.
"'Thomas, do you know why the detective doesn't tell until the last chapter?  So he won't make a fool of himself in case he's wrong.  It's much easier to deduce the identity of the murderer when you catch him in the act of murdering, or when all the other suspects are dead.  Ellery Queen made that mistake in one of his books, I forget which one, but it was funny; he kept presenting complicated solutions that were promptly exploded...'

Jacqueline even teaches readers how to write detective fiction.
So much more to share.  But I'll leave that up to you.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Jake Don't Play

I'm just going to jump into this one. I want to take a moment to rejoice on how this omnibus collection of Elizabeth Peters’s Jacqueline Kirby mystery series saved me from the awfulness of Nightshifted, but I figured I would sweat this topic out if I tried. Therefore, moving right along…

Kirby had some nice covers
While this Jacqueline Kirby omnibus contains the first three books in her series (there are four total), I only read the first book, The Seventh Sinner. I’m in the process of digesting this series in extensive bites, much like Elizabeth Peters's Amelia Peabody series. Speaking of which, the interesting thing that I felt after reading The Seventh Sinner was that I actually–no shade intended–liked Peters's Jacqueline Kirby slightly more.  Sure she's less popular than her counterpart Amelia, but man did I brightened throughout each of her appearances.  Maybe it's because Jacqueline didn't complain (or rather bitch and moan) as much as Amelia.  Instead of doing so, she just... well... marched into her own assertiveness without making demands or controlling others.  Her attitude was a humorous, quirky blend of sharp intelligence and assumed inculpability.  Simply put, Jacqueline marched to the beat of her own drum and did it well.

So what is The Seventh Sinner about? An American student named Jean Suttman has taken her fellowship studies in Rome.  Over time she has gathered six other friends/students with six different backgrounds, educational aspirations and life philosophies. Their group is known as the Seven Sinners.  They are made up of renaissance, historian, anthropology and religion-oriented individuals. Some within this group of seven get along better with others, and nothing appears more evident of their group dynamics than the slain body of one member, and fellow student, Albert. Nobody within the Seven Sinners likes Albert. Besides their disgust at his appearance, he’s somewhat of a know-it-all who is constantly tagging alongside the group to push his unsolicited input on their conversations.  While the group explores an underground Roman temple, a lone Jean runs across the dying body of Albert.  It appears that someone cut his throat, effectively silencing him.  However, he manages to scratch his final message on the dirt floor in an attempt to led Jean to his killer.  So the question becomes which student risked his or her future to silence Albert? As well as why?  Librarian and thrill-seeker, Jacqueline Kirby, steps forward to apply her practical assessment of the crime, while keeping Jean safe from a stream of “accidents” designed to snuff her out of the equation.

The Seventh Sinner was written and set in the 1970s, and really, it had a small taste of gothic horror from that period that I love.  Maybe that's another notable difference that I liked about Jacqueline, contrasting to Amelia Peabody’s series taking place in late 19th and early 20th century Egypt.  (Which, to be fair, is perfectly perfect.)  Or maybe my burst of fondness lie in Jacqueline's third-person narrative, as opposed to Amelia's first.  The narrative wasn't spent locked in Jacqueline's head, leaving me excited and unsure of her ideas and motives. Nonetheless, both protagonists are eccentric, funny, impulsive, and intuitive in their detection. And where Amelia Peabody is famed for solving murder mysteries in Egypt with her parasol at hand, Jacqueline Kirby totes around a bottom-less white purse filled with knick-knacks necessary in helping her solve murders in Rome.  Even a knitting kit.  Speaking of which, Jacqueline wasn't even the main character in the book.  Jean was.  But naturally, Jacqueline stole the show.

Thankfully, the mystery itself wasn't arduous and difficult to follow.  It drew me along nicely, and gave me plenty to guess with.  Structuring a pleasurable mystery is all about appealing characters with even more absorbing secrets to keep. The Seventh Sinner provided plenty of the two. Toward the end, I was never quite sure which student committed the murder, and even when it’s revealed, the twist relaying how and why was satisfying.

I will have to say that my biggest complaint with the book came from the heavy dose of historical and religious references scattered throughout the text. Unfortunately, I don't know a thing about the Seven Churches of Asia or San Andrea al Quirinale. I've never been to the Roman road called Via Aurelia, and have certainly never stepped foot in the Callixtus catacombs of Rome. Therefore, needless to say, I had to roll with the punches in many areas of the book. Sure, some character dialogue-filled in some informational gaps but, as it pertains to the exposition, some of the settings never really fleshed themselves out in my imagination. And because I was so wrapped up in the story, I hardly gave myself a moment to reach for my smartphone to do a quick image search on some of the areas populated by the cast.

All in all, I have to say that I enjoyed this book immensely. Jacqueline Kirby with her bottomless purse, cigarettes, love of thriller books, and horn-rimmed glasses was so irresistible that I will gladly come back for more.

I give The Seventh Sinner:

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