This novel introduces Vicky Bliss, a confident, no-nonsense art historian and professor at a small Midwestern university. She and her colleague/boyfriend Tony stumble across a clue to a lost work by Tilman Riemenschneider, a 16th-century German woodcarver. They decide to embark on a friendly competition to see who can discover the artifact first — a competition Vicky is determined to win. She sets off immediately for the supposed location of the artifact, Castle Drachenstein in Rothenburg, Germany. Unfortunately, Tony is hot on her trail, along with several other parties interested in recovering the lost masterwork. As Vicky and her competitors begin their search, they soon realize that something is amiss at Castle Drachenstein, and the root of the trouble lies in the distant past. Is the castle being haunted by the ghost of a former countess, or is there a less supernatural explanation for the danger Vicky finds herself in?
I’ve read and enjoyed the first few books in the Amelia Peabody series, so I was interested to try this series as well. Overall, I thought it was a fun read and a pretty decent mystery. The emphasis wasn’t so much on the “whodunit” aspect of things; rather, the novel focuses on the suspense and danger evoked by the gothic setting. In that respect, I was reminded a lot of Mary Stewart’s novels (which I also really enjoy), and the archaelogical aspect of the plot called to mind “Indiana Jones.” I also liked reading about Vicky, whose sassy comments and progressive (in the 1970s) views always seemed to stir up trouble. I didn’t always like or agree with her, but she was consistently amusing! Overall, I found this book a fun read and will definitely be picking up the sequels at some point.