The Copenhagen Connection, by Elizabeth Peters

>> Friday, September 14, 2018

TITLE: The Copenhagen Connection
AUTHOR: Elizabeth Peters

PAGES: 358

SETTING: Early 1980s Copenhagen
TYPE: Mystery/Thriller

A strange twist of fate brings Elizabeth Jones face to face with her idol, the brilliant, eccentric historian Margaret Rosenberg, at the Copenhagen Airport. An even stranger accident makes Elizabeth the esteemed scholar's new private assistant. But luck can go from good to bad in an instant -- and less than twenty-four hours later, the great lady is kidnapped by persons unknown. Suddenly desperate in a foreign land, Elizabeth must cast her lot with Rosenberg's handsome, insufferable son Christian in hopes of finding her vanished benefactor. On a trail that leads from modern wonders to ancient mystery, a determined young woman and an arrogant "prince" must uncover shocking secrets carefully guarded in the beautiful Danish city. And they must survive a mysterious affair that is turning darker and deadlier by the hour.
Elizabeth Peters is one of my favourite authors, both under that name and as Barbara Michaels. As Elizabeth Peters she wrote several different series (the best-known of which is, of course, the Amelia Peabody Egyptology-themed mysteries). But she also published quite a few standalone novels, including several that could best be described as "crime capers in exotic locations". This is one of them.

Elizabeth Jones is a plucky young woman (of course) on her first trip to Europe. Things get extremely exciting for her right on the flight to Copenhagen, when she spots an author she idolises. Margaret Rosenberg is a historian who won the Nobel Prize for Literature, and she also publishes bestselling historical fiction. Elizabeth admires her so much that she got a job at the publishing house where she works purely because they publish Margaret's books, and she hoped she'd be able to meet her. That hasn't happened, but Margaret's presence on her flight is Elizabeth's perfect opportunity.

After a bit of a humiliating first attempt on the plane, Elizabeth fears she's wasted that incredible opportunity. But an accident at luggage collection leaves Margaret without a secretary, and Elizabeth seizes her chance. She makes use of her connection to her employers to offer her help, and ends up giving up her holiday to serve as Margaret's secretary herself. It's a dream come true.

But that dream turns a bit weird when Margaret disappears from her hotel room, and it becomes clear that the accident that put her original secretary out of commission was an attempt to insert someone else into her circle -an attempt that Elizabeth unwittingly foiled. Elizabeth has to team up with Christian, Margaret's supercilious son to find out what's going on.

This was just wonderful. Pure, unadulterated fun. We get to run around Copenhagen following completely absurd clues, seeing our characters get into (and out of) ridiculous situations. Elizabeth is probably not the deepest character ever, but what there is of her is great -Peters' usual sensible, brave heroine. Christian is perfect for her, the initially stuffy, overly logical man who ends up behaving completely out of character out of true love :)

And Margaret... oh, Margaret. I adored her. She's eccentric in a really great way, in that she doesn't give a crap about other people's approval, but she does give a crap about being kind. There's a little thread here about people's children becoming a bit overbearing and overprotective when their parents age, and how that feels. It's the one serious note, a lightly made point, but well-made all the same.

The setting was also a highlight. We get quite a bit of the tourist-eye view of Copenhagen, and I had a blast with that. I almost wish I could visit early 1980s Copenhagen :) Because yes, this is a pretty old book. It was published in 1982, and that's quite clear. But not because the book feels at all dated... not at all. In Peters' books, the attitudes always feel remarkably modern (maybe with a few little occasional wobbles). Her female characters face sexism, but it's not internalised, and they are strong and capable women. So I don't cringe in the way I sometimes do when I read other books written a few decades ago. You can only tell this is not written today because of how external things work (no mobile phones or internet, etc.). Elizabeth, Christian and Margaret could comfortably inhabit a book written right now.

Now that I've reread one of Peters' books, I may not be able to stop. I foresee many happy rereading hours as the days get longer and darker!

MY GRADE: A strong B+.


Marg 16 September 2018 at 09:34  

I haven't actually read any of the stand alone books by Elizabeth Peters.

Rosario 17 September 2018 at 04:25  

That makes me really envious, because I wish I could read a lot of these for the first time :)

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