Borrower of the night
(Elizabeth Peters, 1973)

This is a detective story set in Germany, involving a lost work of art and several unsolved crimes related to the possession of it, some in the 20th century and some in the 16th.

The heroine and amateur detective is a young American woman with the rather unlikely name of Vicky Bliss, a historian who comes to Germany on holiday to pursue a personal quest for the 16th-century artwork.

Peters weaves quite an interesting tale of past and present intrigue; the German setting and historical background add colour to the tale.

Characterization is not really bad, but it's a weak point. The American characters are rather bland; the German characters are more varied but not completely convincing. When I finally discovered the identity of the 20th-century villain, I wasn't satisfied: his or her activities (I won't reveal the secret) seemed to have been somewhat out of character.

This book is currently followed by four sequels describing the further adventures of Vicky Bliss in different countries. In general I think the sequels are better than the first book; at least the characterization improves somewhat. The Vicky Bliss books remain a minor sideline compared with the Amelia Peabody books by the same author, but the latter are mostly set in Egypt and Vicky Bliss gives her the chance to explore European settings.

Vicky Bliss herself makes quite a pleasant and sympathetic heroine, but to me she remains slightly unconvincing and unreal, an invented character who never quite takes on a life of her own.

Written in July 2007