It started with a paperback bought at the grocery store. I lived alone, across the country from friend and family and I picked it up to fil the time. Who knew I’d fall in love. Her name is Jacqueline Kirby, the book, Naked Once More, the last book in the series. I guess I understand. Vicky Bliss and Amelia Peabody won the popularity contest so got more attention from Elizabeth Peters so she could only managed four books staring the indefatigable Jacqueline ‘Jake” Kirby. I fell in love with her. Hell, I believe she’s part of the reason I possess a master’s degree in library science. I wanted her smarts and sass. Alas, no classes in either topic ever show up in my course catalogue. I still own Naked. It’s falling apart. I’ll never get rid of it.
Why do I love her? Let me list the ways:
• She’s a woman of a certain age who revels a love of alcohol, smoking and men and manages to exude sexuality despite the PG-13 nature of her mysteries
• Mother of two who loves her kids but almost never mentions them. No, she keeps them at a distance from the reader. We never meet them. We never know about their father(s) and if Jake married him/them. And she never apologizes for it. Her kids have their own lives. She lets them.
• Her mysteries are smart. When we first meet her, she works as an academic librarian with the smarts that entails. Each mystery features some form of meta-analysis on academia, literary analysis or history. I eat that stuff with a spoon.
• She’s genuinely kind. Oh, she doesn’t suffer fools, but she done embrace the decent, even when they annoy her. She also defends them.
• She’s got a wicked sense of humor and does not hesitate to revel in the ridiculous
• She sings when she’s bored
• The cops are all smart. They may not sound like much, but cozy mysteries often make cops too enamored with the obvious. Not here. It’s clear that all the police she encounters are good at their job, they just lack some aspect of the situation Jacqueline possess
• Most of all, I love her for being unapologetically herself. A woman who likes being a woman. A voracious reader how knows a little about a great many topics and can pull out and use all that knowledge at the right moment. A realist who nonetheless has a romantic streak a mile wide. Someone who rights wrongs, even when no one asks her to. Someone how owns her mistakes and works hard to fix them.
Yeah, I want to be Jacqueline Kirby when I grow up.