The Love Talker

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Laurie has finally returned to Idlewood, the beloved family home deep in the Maryland woods where she found comfort and peace as a lonely young girl. But things are very different now. There is no peace in Idlewood. The haunting sound of a distant piping breaks the stillness of a snowy winter's evening. Seemingly random events have begun to take on a sinister shape. And dotty old Great Aunt Lizzie is convinced that there are fairies about — and she has photographs to prove it. For Laurie, one fact is becoming ...

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The Love Talker

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Laurie has finally returned to Idlewood, the beloved family home deep in the Maryland woods where she found comfort and peace as a lonely young girl. But things are very different now. There is no peace in Idlewood. The haunting sound of a distant piping breaks the stillness of a snowy winter's evening. Seemingly random events have begun to take on a sinister shape. And dotty old Great Aunt Lizzie is convinced that there are fairies about — and she has photographs to prove it. For Laurie, one fact is becoming disturbingly clear: there is definitely something out there in the woods — something fiendishly, cunningly, malevolently human — and the lives of her aging loved ones, as well as Laurie's own, are suddenly at serious risk.

When Laurie Carlton and her brother, Douglas, arrive at their aunt's home in answer to a desperate plea for help, strange things begin to happen, and Laurie begins to believe in the "little people." But it isn't fairies who are haunting everyone--it is something very human--and very dangerous.

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Editorial Reviews

San Francisco Chronicle
[Peters] keeps the reader coming back for more.
Jackson Clarion Ledger
Elizabeth Peters is nothing less than a certified American treasure.
Cleveland Plain Dealer
This author never fails to entertain.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380733408
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/28/2001
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 0.92 (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.


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

Once upon a time there was a nice big girl named Laura. She had rosy cheeks and nut-brown hair and three dimples, one in one cheek and two in the other. This nice big girl (no, she was not a nice little girl; she was five feet, nine inches tall and weighed one hundred and twenty-seven pounds).... As I was saying, this nice big girl lived in a nice little house. (It was little, even if it wasn't a house. It was actually an apartment, the kind they call an efficiency; so you see, it was very little indeed.) One winter day she was sitting by her window watching the snowflakes make pretty patterns on the pane when there was a knock at the door. A messenger dressed in blue, with gold braid, had brought her a letter. Little did she know it then, but the letter was from the elves, inviting her to visit them in their woodland haunts.

An hour after the mailman had handed her the special delivery letter Laurie was still sitting by the window staring at the big fat snowflakes. Instead of thinking pretty thoughts about their exquisite patterns she was wondering how many more inches the snow-beleaguered city of Chicago was due to get this time. She swore aloud, in language unbecoming a nice girl, big or little. What evil imp had possessed her to select Chicago as the place in which to write her dissertation? Why not Florida, or California, for God's sake?

There had been sensible reasons for the decision. The chance to sublet a friend's apartment, at a reasonable rent; the proximity to the university, with its excellent library. And there was the real reason: Bob. Bob was majoring in philosophy at the university. Bob was big and blondand adorably homely...and selfish and lazy and arrogant. She had not discovered that he possessed these additional attributes until after they had tried a brief experiment in communal living, and she thanked heaven that some residue of common sense, and the terms of her lease, had persuaded her to keep her own tiny apartment. Well, she should have known better. No doubt Bob's field of study had given her a false impression. She wouldn't have been surprised to find that a budding lawyer or doctor or business executive was a ravening chauvinist in sheep's clothing, but philosophers were supposed to be gentle, rational, and fairminded. She should have remembered Nietzsche and the Superman, Plato's views on slaves, women, and other inferior creatures, and similar philosophical aberrations.

The storm-gray skies were so dark that she could see her face reflected in the window glass, and its malevolent expressionand dim transparency suggested something out of a horror story -- a windblown demon, pausing in its flight over the cities of men to perch for a moment and leer in at her window. A doppelganger, the phantom double of the soul, whose appearance portended danger and death. The externalization of her own evil thoughts, grimacing and glowering at her....

Laurie's wide mouth curved in a smile of amusement, and the reflected features changed from diabolical to benign. Malevolence sat strangely on her face, it was round and pink and healthy-looking, with big brown eyes -- the Morton brown eyes, so dark they looked black in most lights -- and a generous, full-lipped mouth. Normally her mind was as healthy as her face; hostile thoughts were alien to it. She had spent too much time thinking up rude descriptions of Bob. At least the letter had given her something new to worry about.

Laurie should not have been staring out the window. She had a towering pile of notes on the table, on the left side of her typewriter, and a stack of virgin typing paper on the right side. She should have been working. Instead, she reached for the letter and read it again.

The beautiful, Spencerian handwriting was a little tremulous, but that was not surprising. Great-Aunt Ida was getting on. She and, Laurie shared a birthday, so it wasnt hard for Laurie to figure out the old lady's age. Ida had been sixty-eight the year Laurie was sixteen. She had spent most of that summer at Idlewood, and they had had a joint birthday party. So Ida was now seventy-five.

Her mind was as sharp as ever, though. The meticulous grammar and formal phrasing learned in Ida's long-ago school days were still faultless.

"My dear Laura," the letter began. "Far be it from me to place an additional burden on your time; I know the demands of a scholar's life and realize you must be 'burning the midnight oil' with your books."

Laurie grinned again at that. She had been burning the midnight oil, all right, but not with her books. How typical of her great-aunt to enclose that phrase in quotation marks, as if it were a bit of daring slang.

"However," the letter continued, "it has been some weeks since we last heard from you, and naturally we are concerned over your well being. I trust you do not leave your apartment after dark. The news broadcasts these days horrify us with their accounts of violence in the cities. I wish you would seriously consider coming to us to finish your dissertation. Our library is excellent, as you know; your old room is waiting for you, you would have the advantages of healthy country air and good food, instead of the sandwiches on which you no doubt subsist. I cannot believe you would patronize establishments of the sort we see on television; surely the waiters and waitresses constantly singing and dancing in the aisles would be enough to disturb one's digestion, even if the food were edible, which I understand it is not."

Laurie's grin broadened. Did Ida really suppose that the overworked employees of McDonald's and Roy Rogers' burst into song whenever someone ordered a hamburger?

The Love Talker. Copyright © by Elizabeth Peters. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 9 of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent romantic suspense

    In snowy windy Chicago, Laurie Carleton works on her dissertation. However, a letter from her great aunt disturbs Laurie because the elderly woman says that her sister claims to see fairies in the woods. Laurie cherishes her two great aunts and uncle as they cared for her when her mother, struggling with a divorce, dumped the then eight-year-old girl on them. <P>Laurie quickly returns to the family's Maryland estate. When she arrives at Idlewood, her half-brother Doug greets Laurie. They team up to find out the truth. Laurie begins to hear music in the middle of the night and soon someone tries to run her over. Will it take a death or two before the survivors know what is really going on? <P> THE LOVE TALKER is actually a reprint of a 1990 classic that reads as fresh today as it did a decade ago. The romantic suspense has all the elements of a modern day gothic tale except more so as the talented Elizabeth Peters of Egyptology fame pens the novel. Fans who search for excellence in their novels will want to read Ms. Peters' book that is so reminiscent of the best of Mary Stewart. <P>Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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