Legend in Green Velvet

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Overview

It was a dream come true. Susan loved all things Scottish. So, when the opportunity presented itself, there was no question in her mind but that she would go on the archaeological dig in the Highlands. A cryptic message slipped to Susan by a sinister soap box orator was the first puzzle. Why did he choose her? Why was he chasing her? And why were she and the handsome young laird Jamie Erskine suddenly being pursued by the police who wanted to talk to them about...murder? Jamie stood by the desk. ‘You aren’t ...
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Overview

It was a dream come true. Susan loved all things Scottish. So, when the opportunity presented itself, there was no question in her mind but that she would go on the archaeological dig in the Highlands. A cryptic message slipped to Susan by a sinister soap box orator was the first puzzle. Why did he choose her? Why was he chasing her? And why were she and the handsome young laird Jamie Erskine suddenly being pursued by the police who wanted to talk to them about...murder? Jamie stood by the desk. ‘You aren’t afraid of me, are you?’ Susan considered the question. It was the first time it had occurred to her that she might have reasons to be afraid; but the accumulated facts suddenly washed over her and took her breath away. ‘No,’ she said, with perfect truth. ‘Should I be? What do you have in mind?’ from Legend in Green Velvet
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Inexplicably, dragons have become the creatures of choice for fantasy readers. Dragon queen McCaffrey leads off a new treasury, which gathers dragon tales by some of the heavy hitters of the genre, including L. Sprague de Camp, Roger Zelazny, Orson Scott Card, and Gordon R. Dickson. If mystery is more to your liking, Severn House is also offering a hardcover edition of Peters's 1976 Legend in Green Velvet in which protagonist Susan finds love and intrigue in the Scottish Highlands. Severn House books can be ordered directly by calling 800-830-3044. Discounts are available.
Library Journal
Susan has come to Scotland to participate in a summer archaeological dig, a dream come true for one who has steeped herself in the lore and history of the country. Then an eccentric old man hands her a cryptic message, and she is attacked late at night in Edinburgh. Jamie Erskine, a real Scottish laird who turns out to have dark secrets of his own, aids her. As Susan and Jamie are caught up in a plot involving international traffic in historical artifacts, they must flee their pursuers through the countryside. Grace Conlin's facility for dialect enriches this pleasant mystery from the author of The Ape Who Guards the Balance Audio Reviews, LJ 3/15/99. Her rich, deep voice effortlessly imparts life to the variety of accents and ages, and her superlative narration even makes a couple of plot contrivances seem more plausible. A good choice for larger collections.--Melody A. Moxley, Rowan P.L., Salisbury, NC Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Austin American Statesman
“This is Peters at the top of her form.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380731183
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/28/2002
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 0.88 (d)

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.

Biography

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 gravestones were black.

Jetty crosses, ebon urns and tablets, sable angels folding sable wings over somber stones ... A Devil's graveyard; a cemetery of Satanists.

In actual fact Susan did not find the sight at all sinister. In the mellow summer sunshine, nestled cozily among emerald grass, the black stones had a certain bizarre charm. As Susan looked down on the cemetery she felt not a single premonitory shiver. Which only goes to prove that premonitions, like history, are more or less bunk.

She had an excellent view from one of the bridges that arch superbly over the gorge separating the lower section of Edinburgh from the high ridge of the old city. Edinburgh is three different cities: the drab, sprawling suburbs of the recent past; the elegant, formal squares of the eighteenth century town; and, dominating the skyline, the tangled closes and wynds of the ancient capital. From the heights of Castle Rock, more than four hundred feet above sea level, the old streets slant down toward the foot of Arthur's Seat; and the mile-long slopes are crowded with buildings whose turreted, gabled, and towered roofs form a skyline unsurpassed in any city of the world.

Susan had fallen in love with it that morning, when she came out of the station after the all night train ride from London. The weather had been fine; the stone battlements of Edinburgh Castle were outlined against a translucent sky, and the tall old houses reached up out of lavender shadows like elderly aristocrats stretching toward the warmth of the sun. Susan was staring bemusedly out the taxi window when the driver's sour voice shattered her reverie.

"Aye, aye,gawk awa'," he remarked disagreeably. "Rich, spoiled Americans, wasting guid siller on pleasure and paying nae heed to the struggles of an oppressed people ... "

"I've come here to work," Susan said, with perfect good humor; it would take more than a grumpy taxi driver to destroy her mood on such a morning, and the man's accent delighted her. "I'm an archaeology student, and I expect to spend the summer on my hands and knees, digging. And living in a leaky tent. At least I assume it will leak. I'm not getting paid, either. I saved the plane fare by baby-sitting and doing housework last summer. Who's oppressing you?"

It was tantamount to removing a plug. The tirade continued all the way down Princes Street. When they turned into the neatly squared-off streets in the "new" city, Susan interrupted. She suspected that the lecture would have continued indefinitely if she had not.

"You're a Scottish Nationalist," she said, pleased. "How fascinating!"

"Fascinating!" The driver's voice expressed ineffable scorn; no one in the world can express it better than a Scot. "Five meelion souls writhing in the mailed fist o' Sassenach oppression, and ye call it -- "

"We broke away from the Sassenachs ourselves," Susan reminded him. "What are you mad at me for? I don't know much about the subject -- at least I didn't, until a few minutes ago -- but you ought to expect an American to be sympathetic about home rule."

The driver was silent for a moment, maneuvering the car through a crowded intersection.

"Aye, weel," he said thoughtfully. "That's true. Nae doot I've been a wee bit unfair. But ye'd be better off studying some moder-r-rn history, instead of delving in the past."

"But it's Scottish history we're digging up," Susan said. "Macbeth and Duncan -- the Picts -- Robert the Bruce ... Aren't you proud of your history?"

It was an unfortunate question, for it started another lecture that lasted until they drew up in front of the small, unpretentious hotel Susan had selected to fit her limited budget. The driver was in a better mood by then, however; he gave Susan a meager smile as he turned to open the door for her, and when she offered him a tip, he waved it away.

"A wor-r-king pairson should not be extravagant," he announced. "Keep yer siller, lass. And apply yer mind to serious matters."

Eight hours later, leaning on the parapet of the bridge, Susan smiled as she remembered the conversation. It had been an engaging introduction to Edinburgh; and the ensuing time had confirmed her affection for the city and its inhabitants. She had stopped in the hotel only long enough to unpack. The streets drew her, and she had been walking ever since, with a short stop for lunch. Her legs ached from the unaccustomed climbing.

Like most tourists, she had headed first of all for the old city and the Royal Mile; but, unlike the majority of visitors, she knew all the famous landmarks and the stories connected with them. She had been infatuated with Scotland for as long as she could remember. It was one of those unaccountable attractions, for to the best of her knowledge she had not a drop of Scottish blood in her veins. She liked to think of herself as a reasonable romantic, who could enjoy the legends and traditions without believing in their reality; and she told herself firmly that it was not some mystical theory of déjà vu, but rather prolonged study, that made every view seem familiar to her doting eyes. From the Castle, through Lawn-market, the High Street and Canongate, the thoroughfare called the Royal Mile slopes down to Holyroodhouse, the palace that has housed so many of Scotland's ill-fated kings -- and her most ill-fated queen. Mary, Queen of Scots, the femme fatale of royalty -- how many men had died for her legendary charm? Rizzio, her favorite, stabbed to death under her very eyes -- and one of the murderers Mary's own husband, Darnley ... Darnley himself, the victim of one of history's most mysterious unsolved crimes ... Bothwell, Mary's third husband, probably the murderer of her second husband, dying mad in a Danish prison ... And the young men who had conspired to rescue Mary from her prison, and who had perished horribly under the ax and on the rack.

Legend in Green Velvet. Copyright © by Elizabeth Peters. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2005

    Fantastic!

    This book is so good, not just as a mystery, but it really gets you interested in Scotish history.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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