SEARCH THE SHADOWS
By: Barbara Michaels
HarperPaperbacks: New York
Barbara Michaels is one of the pen names of Barbara
Mertz, author of dozens of mysteries, romance novels, supernatural tomes and
a mixture of any two or all threeómany of which have an archaeological
theme. She is perhaps better known by another pen name: Elizabeth Peters,
author of the wonderful Amelia Peabody series. Ms. Mertz earned a doctorate
in Egyptology from the University of Chicago and it is this background that
perhaps provided the impetus for the scene, if not the plot, of Search
The reader is introduced to Haskell Maloney, an orphan
raised by a maiden aunt in Philadelphia. Haskell has followed in the
footsteps of her late mother, Leah, by pursuing a degree in Egyptology. Her
mother studied at the prestigious University of Chicago, while Haskell
stayed close to home at the equally renowned University of Pennsylvania.
Her father was killed in Vietnam before Haskell was born and her mother was
lost in an automobile crash just months after giving birth to Haskell.
Haskellís world begins to collapse when she
inadvertently discovers information that leads her to believe that Kevin
Maloney, her war hero father, was not, in fact, her father at all. Her
motherís personal effects suggest to Haskell that one of her classmates or
teachers at the Oriental Institute was more than likely her real father.
Determined to discover the truth about her parents, she abruptly leaves her
Philadelphia lawyer fiancť and sets off on an odyssey to Chicago to
figuratively excavate the artifacts of her life. All roads lead to the
Gilded Age Nazarian mansion, which houses a fabulous collection of Egyptian
antiquities as well as the scholars who had, as students a generation
earlier, formed the nucleus of her motherís circle of friends, classmates
and mentors. As Haskell delves ever more deeply into the mysteries of her
motherís bohemian existence in the mid 1960s, she begins to wonder if her
motherís death in a fiery auto crash was truly an accident, and whether
Stephen Nazarian, heir to the family fortune until his tragic death in an
anti Viet Nam War protest, was her real father.
A series of mysterious incidents, including an arson
attempt on her life, quickly demonstrates that the secrets surrounding
Haskellís parentage is of more than of passing interest to at least one
individual from those past years of passion, politics and Egyptology.
Haskell discovers the answers to her quest locked in the shadowy recesses of
the Nazarian Museum basement but in so doing faces a psychotic villain who
will gladly kill Haskell to keep her from revealing the truth.
This is a romance/thriller with all the necessary
ingredients: a determined but vulnerable heroine, handsome men who may be
protectors or killers, atmospheric surroundings, and subtly presented
eroticism. The extra edge to this otherwise rather formulaic little novel
is the authorís familiarity with the study of ancient Egypt and its
antiquities and her ability to weave that knowledge into the essence of the
This is no Peabody mystery and there is little of the
Elizabeth Petersí sense of humor on display, but itís still a good mystery,
complete with an adequately surprising denouement. Two trowels for
Search the Shadows.
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