Borrower of the Night by Elizabeth Peters

(Vicky Bliss, #1)

It began as a game, a treasure hunt in an old German castle. For Vicki Bliss - tall, beautiful, and brilliant - it was also a challenge, a chance to bring an arrogant young man down a notch or two. And all things considered, it would have been no contest.

The prize was a centuries old shrine, carved by Tilman Riemenschneider, probably Germany's greatest master of the late Gothic. The place was the forbidding Schloss Drachenstein, where the stones were stained with ancient blood and the air reeked of evil.

The problem was that someone had targeted Vicki, and the game was soon being played in deadly earnest...

Here it is, finally my first Vicki Bliss mystery. The story is a good one, even if not terribly interesting. Based on other works from Michaels and Peters, this is just an average effort. It could be because she was finding her grounding with new characters, but something about it didn't hook me as much as it should have. I can't help but feel that Peters couldn't think of enough story to write this one, not sure where she wanted to go, mainly drawn to characters she wished to invent. I'm sure that the follow-ups are better, and Vicki does seem a great character to follow the adventures of.

Being only 243 pages, it's short and sweet, starting with a challenge between Vicki and new boyfriend Tony, leading quickly afterward to an old castle itching for exploration. Vicki's goal is to find an old art piece before Tony and their accompanying 'friend' George, figuring it's snugly secured somewhere on the grounds because of an assumption from an old book. The chances of that, by the way, was a far-fetched idea to begin the story on.

The story would be a great mystery, yet turns out merely good simply because not enough detail filled out 243 pages. The story was a very simple one that was forced to slowly drag on because not enough substance was held. Of course there were minor revelations that turned thought processes around and inside out, but nothing staggering. Pacing was very slow, as is trademark Peters, but without the depth stories need to make slow pacing successful.

Characters were fun, especially Vicki and Tony. Her personality was a trademark type, a strong heroine with an intelligent mind, independent backbone, and curious disposition. The funniest thing about her were her hysterical observations regarding Tony, with him trying to look cocky or self-assured. She portrays him as so boyish I actually laughed out loud on more than one occasion. George was a fun one, too, with dialogue that ribbed Tony' s ego. The cute triple IS addictive to read about, and would have really shone if given the right story.

One thing bugging me, though, is Vicki's lack of emotion with romance. It's hinted she may feel mere rejection because of Tony, George, and every other male drooling at another female character, but when she believes they may have no love for her anymore, she doesn't seem to mind. Who wouldn't? Writing in whatever pseudonym she chooses, Peters always seemed to have a weird way to write about love, relationships, and romances. Here that's almost taken overboard with the strange numbness Vicki shows. I know she's an independant woman who needs no one but herself, but she shouldn't be portrayed as robotic with love either. I was even surprised to find if anyone held romantic feelings and the same urges for marriage as before toward Vicki, as they showed so little of the usual relationship/crush antics over the course of the story.

Nothing is urgent until perhaps the end climax, but even that lacks a certain desperation usually found in intriguing stories. Rich with history, people into the castle setting will be in for a nice surprise as the couple wanders each night in search of an old legend that may not even be true. People who love mysteries but who are a virgin to Peters may be turned off by the lack of intensity, while cozy fans that are Elizabeth Peter regulars will likely feel right at home.

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