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Elizabeth Peters was a pen name of Barbara Mertz. She wrote romance novels under the name of Barbara Michaels. She wrote her mysteries under the name of Elizabeth Peters. Born and brought up in Illinois, she earned her Ph.D. in Egyptology from the University of Chicago. Mertz was named Grand Master at the inaugural Anthony Awards in 1986 and Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America at the Edgar Awards in 1998. She lived in a historic farmhouse in Frederick, western Maryland. She passed away of August 8, 2013 of cancer. A private woman she did not want anyone to know she was suffering from cancer and she passed away in her sleep as she would have wanted.

Best known for her Amelia Peabody books Peters also had another decidedly independent and charming female sleuth in the form of the almost 6 foot tall blonde “Brunhilda” by the name of Doctor Victoria Bliss.

The first Vicky Bliss novel, Borrower of the Night, was written in 1973. Vicky was working at a small Midwestern College where she was an overworked and underpaid History teacher trying to fend off marriage proposals from Tony whose major redeeming quality was that he was taller than her. Tony arrogantly challenges Vicky to find a mysterious wooden sculpture that disappeared during the wars in the 1500s claiming he will prove that he is better than her at sleuthing and then she will certainly want to marry him. They head off to Rothenburg, Germany where the Schloss Drachenstein has been turned into a hotel. They are joined by very rich antiques collector George Nolan not a man known for his honesty. The three enter into competition to find the legendary wood carving by Riemenschneider.

The castle is run by the cute little Irma Drachenstein. Every creepy old castle must have an odd relative and this one has not only Irma’s Aunt but also a rich old lady who is interested in the spirit world. The book introduces one of my favorite characters of all time, Dr. Anton Schmidt, who runs a museum in Munich.

The book proceeds to throw everything you could ever want with a spooky castle as a setting. There is a heroine who is scared of something, séances, secret rooms, attacking suits of armor, and enough crosses and double crosses to keep you guessing as to who is on which side. It is a great start to the series.

Street of Five Moons finds Vicky working for the delightful Dr. Schmidt in Munich. The roly-poly Herr Doktor Schmidt fashions himself as a great detective with Vicky as his Watson. When a dead man is found with no identification, a cryptic note with an address of 37 Street of Five Moons in Rome, and a forgery of a necklace with the original dating to Charlemagne’s time that is good enough to fool experts Schmidt decides that they need to solve the mystery. Actually Vicky needs to solve the mystery for Schmidt and away she goes to visit Rome.

Vicky believes that the whole thing is a wild goose chase but decides to break into the antique store at 37 Street of Five Moons. There she runs into Caesar a Doberman watchdog that falls in love with her. She also finds evidence that there is a major swindle going on in the antiques world where brilliantly made fakes are taking the place of antique jewelry.

Vicky meets the enigmatic Englishman Sir John Smythe the next day at the antique store and her life will never be the same. This book also has a great castle belonging to an Italian Count that is supposed to be haunted. It turns out that Sir John is the private secretary to the Count. Of course Vicky ends up at the castle and the book has all the proper elements to make it a perfect mystery. There are ghosts, a formidable grandmother, a mistress, a disturbed son, servants who are not what they seem, dungeons, and we can’t forget an Italian Princess. It is good fun.

In Silhouette in Scarlet Vicky is lured to Sweden by John Smythe. Vicky is irritated that Symthe has left her in the lurch before to pay hotel bills while he has snuck out to avoid being arrested. Vicky blows Smyth’s cover at the airport and proceeds to go off on her own. She meets Leif who tries to woo her at the same time getting information on Smythe while claiming to work for a Special Police Branch dealing with antiquities. She also meets the very creepy Max whose hobby is making silhouettes of people out of black paper.

Vicky believes that John is up to something that deals with a fifth century chalice that was found in a farmer’s field in the late 1800s. The chalice was believed to come from the loot of Viking raiders. Vicky is contacted by rich elderly farmer named Gustav Jonsson who claims to be a distant relative of hers. It is no coincidence that he owns the farm where the chalice was found.

Vicky suspects that the man is being hoodwinked and decides to go visit and talk to him in person. Naturally she meets John up there and they are surprised by a criminal gang the next day who want to dig up the farmer’s land in search of more treasure. The mystery makes good use of an island that is cut off and some very nasty villains.

In Trojan Gold Vicky receives a mysterious package that contains a photograph of a woman wearing jewelry that was stolen by the Nazis and disappeared during the fall of Berlin. Other experts who are friends of Vicky’s have also received a picture but not exactly the same one. When Vicky starts investigating she discovers that the same friends who attended an archeological conference in a small town the previous year are back. Vicky’s photograph has come from the innkeeper of the inn where they stayed. The inn is now run by the man’s young widow. He had been struck down by a hit and run driver.

Where there is illegal treasure of course there is John Smyth. Dr. Schmidt has decided to take a personal interest in the case and help solve the mystery. It is a rich mixture of people who are all hoping to find the treasure for their own museums, a young widow who is obviously frightened, a hot headed cousin of the widow, and a mastermind who could be just about anybody. Instead of a castle this time we get an abandoned church and a lonely graveyard. Being winter in the Alps around Christmas we also get avalanches. This mystery has a lot of red herrings and is a bit confusing at times but still is enjoyable in the end.

Night Train to Memphis is the best book in the series. Vicky is asked by Interpol to infiltrate a luxury cruise in Egypt and look over the passengers and see if she can identify a criminal that they believe is about to pull off a big heist at the Egyptian Museum. Vicky is promised protection and that there will be no danger to her. She is shocked when she realizes that John is aboard the ship but not nearly as shocked as when she finds out that he has a brand new and very young bride. Of course the only crook Vicky recognizes is her former lover.

Vicky’s fellow travelers include a very flaky mystery writer, Sweet and Bright and odd couple team where only Sweet talks, a charming multi-millionaire who is about to make a very large donation to Egyptian archeology, a very boring professor whose lectures are a cure for insomnia, her former flame and his wife and his mother, a ditzy widow looking for a new rich husband, and sweet little lady who has more in common with Vicky then she realizes. Of course Vicky’s boss Dr. Schmidt shows up to make life difficult as Vicky tries to keep him safe and he tries to insinuate himself in the case. Dr. Schmidt’s new passion is for Country and Western music. This book is treasure for people who love Country and Western music with its references and clues based on the music.

Vicky finds new enemies as well as some old ones who are not in jail as she had thought. There are again crosses and double-crosses and people who are not what they seem. Schmidt has a rather large role in this book which is a delight as he is one of my favorite characters of all time.

Elizabeth Peters did a final book to close the Vicky Bliss series called The Laughter of Dead Kings. It is probably my least favor of the books. I got the sense that she knew she had to wrap up some things. In her introduction she did mention that in this story she was kind of stuck because of the length of time between books. After talking things over with fellow writers she decided to put the story in the “current now.” In other words she got to play God with her universe and creations and Vicky is still in her early thirties and using modern technology.

The story takes place again in Egypt about 6 months or so from the events of Night Train to Memphis. In the story someone has stolen the mummy of King Tutankhamun. All clues lead to Vicky’s lover John Smythe who now goes by his real name of Tregarth. John swears his innocence and he and Vicky proceed to try and find the real thief. They are joined along the way by people from others books. Schmidt again has a large and funny part. We also meet Suzy and Feisal who were in Night Train to Memphis and Jan Perlmutter from Trojan Gold.

The story drags a bit but I urge you to make it through to the end. There is a bit there that had me laughing so hard the first time I read it. I don't care if the story was a set up for Elizabeth Peter’s ending it is worth the ride. Rest is peace lovely lady we will miss your flair and your humor.

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