Street of the Five Moons by Elizabeth Peters

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Street of the Five Moons is second in a series of six books following the beautiful and intelligent Dr.Victoria Bliss; assistant curator at the National Museum in Munich,Germany. Anyone who reads this book will understand why it might be difficult for me to categorize it. It falls under “mystery” but that is just part of the story. Street of the Five Moons is also full of history, adventure, suspense and a lot of humor.

The story begins at the museum, where Vicky’s quirky but lovable boss Herr Professor Schmidt presents to her, a perfect copy of a piece of jewelry, the Charlemagne talisman that is encased at the museum. It had been found in a dead man’s pocket. Why? Schmidt urges Vicky to find out. It is clear there are sinister designs behind this copy- that it was created by forgers to be switched with the real jewel. It is Vicky’s mission to track down the gang and expose them.

The ever-resourceful Vicky uses clues from the dead man’s pocket to hone in on the location of the band of art forgers. This lands her in Rome where by day she poses as a lovely and naive American tourist but by night, a master lock-picker.

Vicky knows she is on the right track when she is abducted in broad daylight, held captive and then saved begrudgingly by Sir John Smythe, an arrogant, factitious antique store proprietor she had met the day before in a shop she had burgled. He lets her go, warning her strongly to leave Italy.

Once free again, Vicky finesses herself onto the guest list of the palace of the Count Caravaggio where she suspects the criminals might be using for their activities.Things get amusing when she is again, face to face with none other than Sir John who is there to hinder her progress.

Despite the fact that they are on opposing sides, Vicky and John present a great team. They have like minds, their own agendas and argue often. Their sparring is quite funny as John admits with no shame that he is the less gallant of the two who can’t stand the sight of his own blood (a big problem later on). To John’s dismay and amusement, Vicky is unstoppable as she scours the palace and the grounds for clues getting closer and closer to the master art forger’s lair.

The climax of the book is revealed when Vicky happens upon the much sought after lair. She is captured and awakes in a dungeon cell beneath the palace with no way of escape. Soon after John joins her-unconscious and beaten after looking into her disappearance. In my opinion, the funniest part of the book ensues when they are stuck together in the cell; plotting an escape, arguing over who will execute the escape and John presenting his most cowardly side, to Vicky’s exasperation. When their plan for escape succeeds, they are on the run, navigating the dark and confusing tunnels of the dungeons, shot at and pursued up giant multi-level garden fountains and up over the palace wall to presumed safety. John is wounded in the pursuit but Vicky gets them both out alive and safely back into Rome to seek help from a higher power.

The end of the book finds Vicky trapped and entangled with a madman and his gun, and the beguiling and charismatic Sir John Smythe, showing a final bravado that wins Vicky’s heart in the end.

Elizabeth Peters has a gift for blending history, art and intrigue in the Vicky Bliss mystery series and Street of The Five Moons is no exception. It kicks the rest of the series into gear with its unique plot, memorable characters and descriptive locale which carries on into the next book of the series; The Silhouette in Scarlet.

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