Silhouette in Scarlet (Vicky Bliss Series #3)by Elizabeth Peters
One perfect red rose, a one-way ticket to Stockholm, and a cryptic "message" consisting of two Latin words intrigue art historian Vicky Bliss—as they were precisely intended to do.Beautiful, brilliant and, as always, dangerously inquisitive, Vicky recognizes the handiwork of her former lover, the daring jewel thief John Smythe. So she takes the bait, eagerly
One perfect red rose, a one-way ticket to Stockholm, and a cryptic "message" consisting of two Latin words intrigue art historian Vicky Bliss—as they were precisely intended to do.Beautiful, brilliant and, as always, dangerously inquisitive, Vicky recognizes the handiwork of her former lover, the daring jewel thief John Smythe. So she takes the bait, eagerly following Smythe's lead in the hope of finding a lost treasure. But the trail begins at a priceless fifth century chalice which will place Vicky at the mercy of a gang of ruthless criminals who have their eyes on an even more valuable prize. And the hunt threatens to turn deadly on a remote island, where a captive Vicky Bliss must lead an excavation into the distant past—and where digging too deep for the truth could dig her own grave.
Read an Excerpt
Silhouette in Scarlet
This time it wasn't my fault.
On several previous occasions I have found myself up to my neck in trouble (and that's pretty high up, because I am almost six feet tall), which might have been avoided if I had displayed a little ladylike discretion. This time, however, I was innocent of everything except stupidity. They say some people attract trouble. I attract people who attract trouble.
Take Herr Professor Dr. Schmidt, for instance. You wouldn't think to look at him that he could be so dangerous. Physically he's a combination of the Wizard of Oz and Santa Claus'short, chubby, disgustingly cute. Intellectually he ranks as one of the world's greatest historians, respected by all his peers. Emotionally . . . Ah, there's the rub. The non-professional parts of Schmidt's brain are permanently frozen at fourteen years of age. He thinks of himself as D'Artagnan, James Bond, Rudolf Rassendyll, Clint Eastwood, and Cyrano de Bergerac, all rolled into one. This mental disability of Schmidt has been partially responsible for propelling me into a number of sticky situations.
Yet Schmidt's profession, which is also mine, sometimes requires its practitioners to enter a world far removed from the ivory towers of academia. He's the director of the National Museum in Munich; I work under him, specializing in art history. Nothing duller or more peaceful than a museum? Tell that to any museum director and listen to him giggle hysterically.
There is a flourishing black market in stolen art objects, from historic gems to great paintings. Murph the Surf, who lifted the Star of India from New York's American Museum ofNatural History in 1964, was a veritable amateur compared to modern thieves, who have to contend with closed-circuit television, ultrasonic waves, photoelectric systems, and other science-fiction-type devices. They contend admirably. According to one estimate, seventy-five percent of all museums suffer at least one major theft per year.
Sometimes the stolen masterpieces are held for ransom. Insurance companies don't like to publicize the amounts they shell out for such purposes, but when you consider the prices even second-rate Great Masters are bringing at auction these days, you can see that this branch of the trade pays very well. Other treasures simply vanish. It is believed that criminal organizations such as the Mafia are investing heavily in "hot" art, storing it up like gold and silver coins. And there are private collectors who like to sit in their hidden, air-conditioned vaults gloating over beauty that is theirs alone.
It's no wonder museum directors sleep badly, and worry a lot.
Which has nothing to do with the present case. It wasn't my job, or my tendency to interfere in other people's business that led me astray this time. It was one man. And I should have known better.
It rains a lot in southern Germany. That's why the Bavarian countryside is so lush and green. In bright sunshine Munich is one of the world's gayest and most charming cities.
Under dull gray skies it is as dismal as any other town. This spring had been even wetter than usual. (They say that every spring.) As I stood waiting for the bus one evening in late May, I felt that I had seen enough water to last me for a long while. My umbrella had a hole in it, and rain was trickling down the back of my neck. I had stepped in a puddle crossing Tegernsee Allee, and my expensive new Italian sandals were soggy wrecks. A sea of bobbing, shiny-wet umbrellas hemmed me in. Since most Munichers, male and female, are shorter than I am, the streaming hemispheres were almost all on my eye level, and every now and then a spoke raked painfully across the bridge of my nose. Italy, I thought. Capri, with a blue, blue sea splashing onto white sand. My vacation wasn't due until July. I decided to move it up.
Naturally, the package arrived that evening. Some people have a diabolical sense of timing. Even the weather cooperates with them.
The rest of the mail was the usual dull collection, plus the weekly letter from my mother, which I wasn't exactly aching to read. It would contain the usual repetitive news about her bridge club and her recipes, plus the usual veiled hints about how I ought to be settling down. My birthday was rapidly approaching'never mind which one'as far as Mom is concerned, every birthday after the twenty-first is a step down the road to hopeless spinsterdom. I kept sending her carefully expurgated descriptions of my social life, but I couldn't expect her to understand why marriage was the last thing I wanted. She and Dad have been like Siamese twins for over forty years.
Before I could read the mail or divest myself of my wet clothes I had to deal with Caesar.
He is a souvenir of a former misadventure of mine, in Rome, and there were times when I wished I had brought back a rosary blessed by the Pope or a paperweight shaped like the Colosseum, instead of an oversized, overly affectionate dog. Caesar is a Doberman'at least he looks like a Doberman. Like Schmidt's, his personality doesn't match his appearance. He is slobberingly naive and simpleminded. He likes everybody, including burglars, and he dotes on me. He has cost me a small fortune, not only in food, but in extras, such as housing. Even if I had the heart to confine a horse-sized dog to a small apartment, there wasn't a landlord in the city insane enough to rent to me. So I had a house in the suburbs. The bus ride took almost an hour twice a day.
I let Caesar out and let him in, and fed him, and let him out and dried him off. Then I settled down with the mail and a well-deserved glass of wine.
I opened the package first, noting, with only mild interest, that I was not the first to open it. German customs, I assumed. The stamps were Swedish, the address was in neat block printing, and the return address, required on international parcels, was that of a hotel in Oslo.Silhouette in Scarlet. Copyright © by Elizabeth Peters. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
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.
- A farm in rural Maryland
- Date of Birth:
- September 29, 1927
- Place of Birth:
- Canton, Illinois
- M.A., Ph.D. in Egyptology, Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 1952
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