Meet art historian Vicky Bliss, She is as beautiful as she is brainy--with unassailable courage, insatiable curiosity, and an expertise in lost museum treasures that often leads her into the most dangerous of situations.
A missing masterwork in wood, the last creation of a master carver who died in the violent tumult of the sixteenth century, may be hidden in a medieval German castle in the town of Rothenburg. The prize has called to Vicky Bliss, drawing her and an arrogant male colleague into the forbidding citadel and its dark secrets. But the treasure hunt soon turns deadly. Here, where the blood of the long forgotten damned stains ancient stones, Vicky must face two equally perilous possibilities. Either a powerful supernatural evil inhabits this place. . .or someone frighteningly real is willing to kill for what Vicky is determined to find.
This is the first book in the Vicky Bliss series of mysteries by Elizabeth Peters, who also writes the Amelia Peabody series of mysteries that I have been working my way through over the last year or so. I had already read the second book in the Vicky Bliss series, which is called Street of the Five Moons. It's very unusual for me to read a series out of order, and it is something that caused me to have at least big issue for me in this book. In fact, to say it was an issue is probably an understatement, because it was really distracting as I posted at the time!
We meet Vicky in America, where she is a history instructor at a small town college. She is also involved with another history instructor called Tony, and when they both find out about an important relic, they become competitors in the race to find the priceless religious shrine. They are not the only people searching for the shrine. There is also an avid art collector who has decided that he wants it, and then when they make it to the castle, there are also some other characters who seem to be involved as well. It may end up being more than just a race for the prize - it could be a race for their lives!
The details that are imbued in most Peters' books are here - fantastic settings (in this case a Gothic castle), creepy characters that you really can't be sure are all that bad, but neither are they all that good, lots of details about the object that is being searched for, all set amongst a mad cap plot and pithy dialogue between the main characters.
In the comments of the post that I linked to above where I talked about my frustration about what happened to Tony, Rosario suggested that this book is really a prelude to the series proper. It sets the scene for how Vicky comes to be living in Munich and working for Herr Professor in the next book, and I think I am in agreement with her.
So, while this was a lot of fun, there was still a big but in there for me! If I had read this book first (as I am normally so obsessive about reading in order I would usually do so) I'm sure that I would be rating it higher, but as it is I was very distracted during the reading of the book itself.