By Elizabeth Peters
Elizabeth Peters’ novels were some of my first adult novels, and I couldn’t have had a better author for transition. Her books are almost all mysteries, though when I think back on them, I can’t think of a single one that features a murder—they usually deal with theft of artifacts. They are all funny, with likable characters and light romance, which makes them perfect for a young teen graduating out of young adult books.
Devil-May-Care is my favorite of all of her books. It was published in 1977 and features a young woman caretaking her aunt’s mansion, which turns out to be haunted. Sound familiar?
Well, the heroine is smart, capable and mostly unafraid, and the other characters are all engaging and humorous. The plot moves along quickly and interestingly, and with great humor. One warning: each scene leads seamlessly into the next action, so it can be quite difficult to find a stopping point for breaks, leading to too many late nights this week.
A line toward the end of The Shining brought this book to mind for me and inspired me to pick it up again (very mild spoiler):
In The Shining, the first time Wendy experiences some of the supernatural elements along with Jack and Danny, she clings to the idea that it is mass hypnotism. One of the characters in Devil-May-Care also explains away the ghosts with the idea of mass hypnotism, and it stuck with me because I’d never heard of such a thing before. I wonder if it was some pet theory of the 1970s? I have no real idea what it means or how that would have worked.
She really is a wonderful author. Devil-May-Care is a great book, but I think my favorite of hers is Summer of the Dragon.
When did hypnosis in general become part of common culture? Because I have this sense that there was a period where it was thought to be able to achieve anything and everything, a la The Manchurian Candidate.
Ooh, I forgot that The Manchurian Candidate did a similar thing! But that one was more concentrated brainwashing that almost seems possible. At least the perpetrators put some effort into it. This mass hypnosis explanation that allows multiple people to see something unbelievable all at once without any sort of previous experiment just seems kind of insane.
Anyway, Summer of the Dragon is definitely one of my favorites, too, along with The Love Talker and of course Crocodile on the Sandbank.