>> Saturday, October 08, 2011
She may be a bestselling author, but ex-librarian Jacqueline Kirby's views on the publishing biz aren't fit to print. In fact, she's thinking of trading celebrity for serenity and a house far away from fiendish editors and demented fans when her agent whispers the only words that could ever make her stay: Naked in the Ice.
Seven years ago, this blockbuster skyrocketed Kathleen Darcy to instant fame. Now the author's heirs and looking for a writer to pen the sequel. It's an opportunity no novelist in her right mind would pass up, and there's no doubting Jacqueline's sanity...until she starts digging through the missing woman's papersand her past. Until she gets mixed up with Kathleen enigmatic lover. Until a series of nasty accidents convince her much too late that someone wants to bring Jacqueline's storyand her lifeto a premature end.
Reread of an old favourite, although, to be fair, pretty much all of Elizabeth Peters / Barbara Michaels' books are old faves of mine. This one is the last book in the Jacqueline Kirby series, featuring the adventures of the fantastically self-assured former librarian.
Since the last book, which took place in a romance novel convention (and which shouldn't be read by romance readers unless they can take a bit of fun being poked at the genre, especially its 1980s excesses -remember the author photos where they dressed up as the book's heroine?), Jacqueline has become a successful author herself. But fun as writing her own characters may be, when the possibility of writing a sequel of Naked in the Ice comes up, Jaqueline jumps at it.
Naked in the Ice was the blockbuster to end all blockbusters, a Clan of the Cave Bear-type epic historical romance. It brought its author, Katherine Darcy, fame and fortune. But not long after it came out, Katherine mysteriously disappeared. Her car was found abandoned, what looked like a suicide note left behind, and Katherine's body never turned up. Seven years have passed since then, and now that the courts have finally declared her dead, her family is in quite an unseemly rush to cash in and get someone to write a sequel.
The competition for the chance to do so is fierce (literally: the other authors in the running are willing to go to some bizarre lengths to get the prize), but Jacqueline manages to get selected, and moves to the small town that was Katherine's home to be close to Katherine's archives while she writes. But Jacqueline is quite the amateur detective, and she was already interested in the mystery of Katherine's disappearance even before she finds some tantalising clues in her letters, pointing at someone wanting her dead...
This is vintage Elizabeth Peters. There's the fun plot, the humour that shines through every sentence and the varied and extremely entertaining secondary characters. I enjoyed all of it. The plot might be a little far-fetched, but it's intriguing, and makes for interesting twists and turns, with some good red herrings, and a fun ending, which is a bit of an homage to Agatha Christie. Peters' writing is fantastic, especially when she's describing those secondary characters. She's a bit brutal sometimes, when she's skwering someone particularly unlikeable, but that's because we're seeing them from Jacqueline's point of view, and she's one unsentimental woman.
This was particularly enjoyable because Jacqueline is a bit of a mysterious character throughout most of the series. The first two books, at least, are quite unusual in that while she's very much the protagonist, we never see her point of view. Both books are narrated by other characters, who are all a bit in awe of the beautiful, clever and very prickly Jaqueline. I'm not quite sure about Die For Love, because I haven't reread it in a while, but in Naked Once More we finally get into Jacqueline's head. And it's quite good, because she's much more human that way. We don't see much of her vulnerabilities in the first two books, but we do see here that she has a few of them. But of course, she doesn't change personality just because of this. She's still unsentimental and doesn't suffer fools gladly, which is something I love about her.
MY GRADE: A B+