Jacqueline Kirby Mysteries by Elizabeth Peters

I don’t typically review an entire series on one page, and I won’t offer a star rating on this one. The four books that comprise the detecting life of Jacqueline Kirby have so many similarities that I’ll share my thoughts here.

The first book was published in 1972 and the fourth in 1989. Seventeen years is quite a span for a four-book series (I was 10 when the first one came out, and married and pregnant when the last one was released), but I Iistened to them rapid-fire, in order, after checking the audiobooks out from my library to listen on an extended train trip.

In Books 1 and 2, the point of view is never Jacqueline’s; instead we view her through one or two male characters whose only purpose is to spotlight Jacqueline’s stellar qualities: “Wow! What a woman!” About ten years elapsed after Book 2 was released, and the remaining two books start out with a brief POV from a male character but end up being told almost entirely from Jacqueline’s point of view.

In spite of the shift in point of view as the series progressed, what didn’t change was the author’s disappointing practice of assigning unpleasant physical characteristics to the characters that are considered to be unsavory, immoral, cowardly, etc. This usually involved body weight, described as ‘rolls of flesh” and other unpleasant terms, but also includes features like receding chins, big noses, lank hair, and acne – and these features, instead of being used as legitimate details to paint a complex picture of a character, are parts of the author’s overall effort to drive home how unpleasant the character is.

What a cheap way to build a character. I expected better from this author.

In books 3 and 4 we do have more information about Jacqueline. She, too, is sneaky, sometimes vindictive, sometimes somewhat lacking in scruples – but she is physically attractive and is motivated, arguably, by the need for justice, so in her case it’s ok. Male characters, especially, shake their heads with a smile (again – “what a woman!”).

The plots for all four books are novel; click on the links below for more information. They will open in a new tab/page.

1.The Seventh Sinner – 1972Murder and attempted murder in Rome
2. The Murders of Richard III -1974Murder in England, with costumes – an interesting historical twist
3. Die for Love – 1984Death and revenge at a romance novel convention – best in the series.
4. Naked Once More – 1989Murder with a literary theme