The special CiB meme ‘Xmas scenes from books, accompanied by carefully chosen pictures’ is back!
Every year I do a series of Xmas entries on the blog, helped and encouraged by suggestions and recommendations from my lovely readers. If you use Pinterest you can see some of the beautiful seasonal pictures on this page, and you can find (endless!) more Xmas books via the labels at the bottom of the page. You’d think I’d be running out of Xmas books and scenes by now, but far from it – I have to begin this feature earlier in December each year. More ideas still welcome in the comments. (If it’s a particularly good choice I will ditch one of the ones I have ready and give you credit…)
Trojan Gold by Elizabeth Peters
Weihnachten [the Christmas period] in Bavaria is lots of fun. Streets and shops were strung with greens; Christmas trees sparkled in every square and plaza. The Kristkindlemarkt was in full swing, as it had been for over 150 years; booths and stands crowded the square under the shadow of der Alte peter, who is not an elderly gentleman but an elderly church. In the evening, lanterns and candles and strings of rainbow lights shone like fallen stars in the blue dusk, and trumpeters on the church tower played the old carols; the clear bright notes drifted down like music from heaven, blending with the gently falling snow. Every variety of Christmas decoration was for sale, from gilded gingerbread to handmade ornaments; and I lingered at the booths featuring the lovely carved creches. I couldn’t afford any of the ones I wanted, so I bought Pfeffernusse and sugared almonds and a gilded branch strung with hard candies – a kindly compromise of the old legend in which the saint brings sweeties to the good little children and switches to the naughty ones.
commentary: This was a recommendation from last year’s comments section on one of the Christmas books – staunch blogfriend Daniel Milford Cottam recommended it after reading this post. You have to scroll to the end: it’s a long way down, and Daniel had already by this time already recommended a couple of others, including Mistletoe and Murder by Carola Dunn (yes, coming soon). [He is also responsible for Sunday’s entry, on Bad Santa in the Jane books by Evadne Price.]
Elizabeth Peters was a very prolific and popular author – she died in 2013, though a few leftover manuscripts are still being completed and published. She is probably most famous for her Amelia Peabody Egyptology crime stories, but she also wrote these contemporary art history books, with narrator/heroine Vicky Bliss - described thus on Wiki:
The Vicky Bliss novels follow the adventures of an American professor of art history, who keeps getting involved in international crime, and her love interest, a charming art thief known as Sir John Smythe.I read a Peters book every few years, and always enjoy them, without being pushed to read more. This was a light-hearted romp with a large cast of characters chasing each other around Bavaria at Christmas-time: they are wondering about the fate of some gold recovered by Heinrik Schliemann in his Trojan excavations: this very gold here shown draped on his wife Sophia.
The book is nicely seasonal: there are snow-covered villages, little inns, olde-worlde craftsmen, and lots of villainous and untrustworthy characters. There are slightly slapstick ensemble scenes, which I’m not so fond of, and sometimes the crime plot is sacrificed to jokes and humour: I’m not sure I was really keeping up with the plot at all times, so I may be to blame. But she was a good strong 80s heroine: I kept trying to work out what it was that made her so very much of her time, but couldn’t decide. She had elements in common with the wonderful Nina from the Marissa Piesman books.
Altogether a good Christmas read.
Christmas Market picture from Wikimedia Commons.
Sophia Schliemann (née Engastromenos) wearing treasures recovered at Hisarlik