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The Seventh Sinner
By Elizabeth Peters

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The Seventh Sinner

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The Seventh Sinner
By Elizabeth Peters
Center Point Publishing - Large Print, (2002)
ISBN: 1-58547-188-7
Genre: Mystery

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - August 28, 2002

The Seventh Sinner was the first of four Elizabeth Peters's novels that featured Jacqueline Kirby, and it offers the reader a fascinating introduction to an intelligent, and quirky protagonist. In this novel, Kirby's story is told from the viewpoint of Jean Suttman, an art historian who is in Rome, studying on a fellowship at the Institute of Art and Archeology. Jacqueline, a demure looking middle-aged librarian and seasoned sleuth, meets Jean in an unexpected manner. Jean literally runs into Jacqueline, and knocks her down, while running around the halls of academia. Unexpectedly, this chance and perhaps painful way of meeting leads the two women to develop a strong friendship. Their friendship only deepens when Jean finds an acquaintance of her's, in the Temple of Mithra, with his throat slit!

This mystery is a little slow in the beginning, but after a few chapters, Peter's really begins to get into the story and it progress, from then on, with break-neck speed as Jean finds herself the target of a murder plot. In order to protect her new friend, Jacqueline finds that she must help Jean to discover the truth behind the murder of Albert, who just happens to be one of the members of Jean's social group who calls themselves the Seven Sinners.

Although this novel has a gruesome side, although nothing terribly graphic, it is also a bit on the humorous side. In large part because Jacqueline, who seems so demure, is a fount of hidden strengths, which tend to come to light in the most unusual circumstances. Best yet, intertwined with this mystery, Peter's also takes you on an informative tour of the catacombs that underlay Rome, while exploring the history of the early Christians in the city.

A goodly part of this mystery takes place in the catacombs, as the two women hunt for clues to the identity of the murder, and I can say from experience, having toured numerous Roman catacombs, that Peter's captures the aurora and claustrophobic feel of the catacombs to a tee.

The Seventh Sinner is a finely wrought, although somewhat eccentric novel that matches the eccentric nature of its star, Jacqueline Kirby. It also has a markedly different feel from Peter's, Amelia Peabody mysteries, although I like both characters immensely. One of the features I best like about Peter's work is that she manages to give all of her characters a unique personality and identity that is both life-like and interesting. And, it is the distinct personalities of each of the members of the Seven Sinners that makes this book particularly memorable.


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