The Camelot Caper

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The Lethal Stuff of Legends

For Jessica Tregarth, an unexpected invitation to visit her grandfather in England is a wonderful surprise — an opportunity to open doors to a family past that have always been closed to her. But sinister acts greet her arrival. A stranger tries to steal her luggage and later accosts her in Salisbury Cathedral. Mysterious villains pursue her through Cornwall, their motive and intentions unknown. Jessica's only clue is an antique heirloom she ...

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The Camelot Caper

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The Lethal Stuff of Legends

For Jessica Tregarth, an unexpected invitation to visit her grandfather in England is a wonderful surprise — an opportunity to open doors to a family past that have always been closed to her. But sinister acts greet her arrival. A stranger tries to steal her luggage and later accosts her in Salisbury Cathedral. Mysterious villains pursue her through Cornwall, their motive and intentions unknown. Jessica's only clue is an antique heirloom she possesses, an ancient ring that bears the Tregarth family crest. And her only ally is handsome gothic novelist David Randall — her self-proclaimed protector — who appears from seemingly out of nowhere to help her in her desperate — attempt to solve a five hundred-year-old, puzzle. For something from out of the cloudy mists of Arthurian lore has come back to plague a frightened American abroad. And a remarkable truth about a fabled king and a medieval treasure could ultimately make Jess Tregarth very rich...or very dead.

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Editorial Reviews

Chicago Tribune
No, one is better at juggling torches while dancing on a high wire than Elizabeth Peters.
New York Times Book Review
Gothica in the irreverent trappings I like best.
San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle
Good pace, high spirits, and lots of amusement.
Library Journal
This mystery follows American Jessica Tregarth on a trip to England to visit a grandfather she has never known. No sooner does she enter the UK, however, than her life is thrust into jeopardy. This 1980 mystery and all Severn House books can be purchased at a discount; contact 800-830-3044.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812507706
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 4/1/1988
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 320

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Peters

Elizabeth Peters earned her Ph.D. in Egyptology from the University of Chicago's famed Oriental Institute. She was named Grand Master at the inaugural Anthony Awards in 1986 and Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 1998. In 2003, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Malice Domestic Convention. She lives in a historic farmhouse in western Maryland.


Neither the Great Depression nor the lack of a public library in her small hometown of Canton, Illinois, deterred Barbara Mertz (the future Elizabeth Peters) from becoming an avid reader. Yet, when her family moved to a suburb of Chicago, she was elated to discover the riches contained in the town's local library and proceeded to devour every book she could get her hands on. She began writing in high school; but by that time she had already decided to become an archaeologist.

Mertz received a scholarship to the University of Chicago, which boasted a world-famous Egyptology department. Her mother, an eminently practical soul, encouraged her daughter to become a teacher; but after taking only two education courses, Mertz knew a career in the classroom was not for her. Determined to follow her dream, she moved over to the university's Oriental Institute, and received her Ph.D. in Egyptology at the age of 23.

The post-WWII job market wasn't kind to women in general, much less to women seeking careers in archaeology. Mertz married and began a family, but never lost sight of her life's ambition. While she was raising her two children, she decided to try her hand at writing. Her first few attempts were never published, but they did land her an agent; and in 1964 she published her first book, Temples, Tombs and Hieroglyphs: A Popular History of Ancient Egypt.

Mertz authored two additional works on archaeology before foraying into fiction in 1966. The Master of Blacktower is the first of several gothic suspense novels written under the pseudonym Barbara Michaels. (In her biography, she explains that the use of pseudonyms helps readers to distinguish various types of books written by a single author.) The supernatural elements in the thrillers penned under the Michaels name have kept readers on the edge of their seats for decades.

In the 1970s, Mertz began writing under her second, more famous pseudonym, Elizabeth Peters. As Peters, she has authored books in three different series. Beginning in 1972 with The Seventh Sinner (1972), the first series features a glamorous librarian-turned-romance novelist named Jacqueline Kirby (the final Jacqueline Kirby mystery, Naked Once More, won a coveted Agatha Award in 1989). The second series, starring American art historian Vicky Bliss, debuted in 1973 with Borrower of the Night (Vicky's last outing was 2008's Laughter of Dead Kings). Then, in 1975, Peters introduced her most famous protagonist, archeologist/sleuth Amelia Peabody, in a dandy adventure entitled Crocodile on the Sandbank.

From the first, readers loved Amelia, a plucky Victorian feminist who—together with her husband, the distinguished Egyptologist Radcliffe Emerston—has gone on to solve countless mysteries in the Middle East. Peabody fans received an extra treat in 2003 with Amelia Peabody's Egypt: A Compendium to Her Journals, a nonfiction stroll through ancient Egypt that included nearly 600 photographs and illustrations, plus expert academic articles.

In addition to her three series, Mertz has written several standalone suspense novels as Elizabeth Peters. She has this to say about her successful, prolific career: "The craft of writing delights me. It is impossible to attain perfection; there is always something more to be learned—figuring out new techniques of plotting or characterization, struggling with recalcitrant sentences until I force them to approximate my meaning. And nothing is ever wasted. Everything one sees and hears, everything one learns, can be used."

Good To Know

The pseudonym Elizabeth Peters is taken from her two children, Elizabeth and Peter. She uses three pseudonyms so readers can tell the difference between the three types of books she writes: nonfiction archaeology as Barbara Mertz, supernatural thrillers as Barbara Michaels and historical mysteries as Peters. For the record, Mertz has called the pseudonyms "a horrible nuisance."
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    1. Also Known As:
      Barbara Mertz, Barbara Michaels
    2. Hometown:
      A farm in rural Maryland
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 29, 1927
    2. Place of Birth:
      Canton, Illinois
    1. Date of Death:
      August 8, 2013

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The book was small, a paperback edition, with a cover done in shades of blue. In the foreground was the figure of a beautiful young girl, disheveled black hair streaming over her shoulders. She was in genteel dishabille and in considerable distress; her eyes, looking back over her shoulder, were fixed in terror upon the distant outlines of a ruined castle, perched on a cliff, under a darkening sky.

Jessica glanced down at the book, half concealed in her lap by her clenchedhands. What ghastly danger from the haunted ruins threatened the poor heroine? A man, of course; it was always a man-either a dark-browed hero, whom the vapid heroine suspected of villainy, or a dark-browed villain whose plot the girl had just discovered. She hadn't read the book yet, but she had read a number of similar volumes, and the plots had a monotonous kinship. She suspected she would never read another such thriller. Fictitious terrors lost their charm when they recalled a real fear.

Jess glanced back over her shoulder, not at a ruined castle or Charles Addams house, but at a prosaic stretch of black-topped road. There was not much traffic, and no car remained for long behind the bus, which was jogging along at a leisurely twenty miles an hour.

Reassured, Jess transferred her attention to the side window, where the view was prettier. For more years than she could remember she had looked forward to that view-the green hills of England, looking newly upholstered in their fresh spring grass, dotted with grazing white sheep, covered over with a sky of china blue. This was the England of which the poets sang-almost. The month was May, not April and, Browningnotwithstanding, May was warmer and more pleasant. The first day Jessica had delightedly identified the prickly bushes along the roadside, with their blazing yellow bloom, as gorse. She had found bluebells in the lanes, and smelled the lilac.

That had been yesterday-before the fear began.

Compulsively, her head turned again, her eyes found the road still innocent. The fat lady next to her was looking at her curiously; the plump pink face remained expressionless, but the eyes behind the round, gold-rimmed glasses were shrewd and hostile.

The fat lady's bundles were jabbing her in the hip. Jess slid over another fraction of an inch. She was already squeezed into the farthest corner of the long back seat, and she wondered, irritably, what had prompted the other woman's buying spree. She also wondered how she had found so many worthwhile bargains in the unexciting shops of Salisbury. But "unexciting" was a relative term; judging from the tiny villages this very local bus had passed through, the sleepy cathedral town of Salisbury might look like a metropolis by contrast.

Jess let her aching head rest for a moment against the cool glass of the window. Salisbury...the cathedral...Sunday morning. A strange time and place for the beginning of the threat which had driven her, in unreasoning flight, onto a bus going she knew not where, arriving she knew not when. She didn't dare ask anyone where she was going; her aim was inconspicuousness, and that question would certainly attract attention. She was conspicuous enough by her very foreignness. Odd, how obviously American she looked; even she could see the difference, and it was not defined by anything so obvious as makeup and short skirts. The English girls she had seen wore skirts which made hers look Victorian, and their false eyelashes outdistanced hers by a good quarter of an inch. The cut of her clothes, perhaps? Her yellow wool suit with its short jacket and straight skirt probably hadn't cost any more than the plaid outfit and purple sweater the girl two seats up was wearing, but it looked...well, it looked different. And whatever had possessed her to select yellow? It stood out like a neon sign.

The bus lumbered up a rise and through a copse of trees; Jessica's features, palely limned against the dark background of foliage, made a pallid pattern on the window glass. The blue of her eyes hardly showed; only the fair skin, bleached by a long winter in the office, and the light-brown hair. The effect was spectral; she closed her eyes, too tired to turn for another look behind.

Being afraid was fatiguing. She could understand now why a hunted man might suddenly stop running and surrender himself to his pursuers, even when capture might mean death. In her case, terror was increased by bewilderment. She did not know why she was being threatened, which meant that she had no clue as to how to defend herself.

As she looked back now, a number of incidents fell into place, making a pattern which had not been visible until the one key incident occurred and gave meaning to the whole. A pattern-but only in the sense of consistent behavior. The motive still remained obscure.

But there was no doubt in her mind now that the man who had taken her suitcase at Southampton had not done so by mistake. It had been a close call. She had looked away for only a moment, to hail a taxi. Her two big suitcases had been sent on; they had arranged that for her on the boat, and as soon as she cleared customs she had simply carried her one remaining bag out of the building and had stood by the street looking for transportation. The man who brushed by her was only one of many; there was a crowd near the quay, people embarking and disembarking, seeing friends off, and meeting them. When, having obtained her taxi, she looked down to find her bag gone, her first assumption had been that it had been kicked or pushed away.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 8 of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 20, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    it's okay

    I'm a big fan of Elizabeth Peters and have been reading her books for years. This one is okay. Since it was originally published in the 60s, sometimes it feels outdated. But the plot is not bad and I liked the characters. It's not one of her better books though and is ultimately kind of silly. If you want to read Elizabeth Peters (who also writes under the name Barbara Michaels), I suggest the following books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2005

    One of my fav.

    This is one of my most fav. books ever. I love the relationship between Susan and David, they are soooo funny. It deals a lot with Camelot, so if you aren't interested in it, you probably shouldn't read this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2000

    Terrific Book

    This book was funny and fairly well put together. At the beginning I was slightly skeptical of the way the heroine Jess Tregarth reacts to things, but it gets much better once David Randall arrives, along with his sense of humor, one-liners, and British accent. Somebody said that the villian in this (Cousin John Tregarth) is actually Sir John Smythe from the Vicky Bliss series. I don't know. They are somewhat alike. Good book overall.

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    Posted May 5, 2011

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    Posted March 29, 2012

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    Posted December 27, 2009

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    Posted August 25, 2009

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    Posted October 27, 2010

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