Tuesday, 3 October 2000

Elizabeth Peters: The Camelot Caper (1969)

Edition: Severn House, 1996
Review number: 642

From the title, it would perhaps be reasonable to assume that this early Elizabeth Peters' novel is one of her silliest, but in fact it is a fairly straightfaced thriller. Jessica Tregarth has come to England on her grandfather's invitation, but is alarmed to find herself being followed around tourist spots like Salisbury Cathedral and having her luggage searched, to the point of hiding on a local bus (where the most amusing scene of the novel occurs, in whhich respectable villagers conceal her and lie inventively to the "gangsters" chasing her).

The plot is typical of the thrillers of the style perhaps best exemplified by Mary Stewart - though to a certain extent it is satirising poorer examples of this subgenre. The Camelot Caper has signs of parody - the way that successive scenes work their way through most of the best known tourist sites in South West England, for example, but it is really more lighthearted than uproarious. An enjoyable feature of the novel is the vacillation of the heroine between terror and the feeling that she is making something out of nothing, like in Northanger Abbey (a parallel she quotes).

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