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Black Amber [and] Blue Fire by Phyllis A.…

Black Amber [and] Blue Fire

by Phyllis A. Whitney

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Blue Fire was never one of my favorite of Ms. Whitney's adult novels, although Secret of the Tiger's Eye, also set in Cape Town, South Africa, is one of my favorites among her juvenile mysteries. http://www.phyllisawhitney.com/Secret%20of%20the%20Tigers%20Eye.htm. Still, the solution to one of the mysteries has stuck in my mind for decades, the only thing I recalled about this book.

Keep in mind that Blue Fire came out in 1961, before the Women's Liberation Movement started, because Susan's excessive desire to please her man will be hard to take. At least Susan van Pelt has a career as a photographer. If you know anything about emotional/verbal abuse, alarm bells are going to sound in your mind over Dirk long before Susan starts to wonder about him. Too bad she didn't find out he's a racist earlier, because Susan isn't. She doesn't find out until they've both returned to South Africa, where Susan was born and where her mother took her and fled when Susan was a little girl. Claire van Pelt kept Susan in ignorance about why they left, and why her father went to prison for three years.

Claire is dead, but Niklaas van Pelt is still alive. Susan adored her father when she was little. She's not interested in him now -- not at first, anyway.
Dirk was her father's ward and works for him now. Dirk keeps his mouth shut about things Susan would like to know while urging her to remember what she can about the time she and her mother fled. A valuable diamond which had a trick of flashing "blue fire" disappeared then. Does Susan know what happened to it? She keeps having a nightmare about being surrounded by blue fire.

Mara Bellman, her father's beautiful secretary, is another problem. Too bad her father depends upon her because Mara doesn't like Susan. What's Mara's problem, anyway?

Blue Fire was written when the despicable system of Apartheid was still the rule in South Africa. Thomas Scott and Willimina Kock are two intelligent characters created to show the idiocy of assuming that native Africans or persons with African blood are somehow inferior. Besides Susan, journalist and book author John Cornish is against Apartheid. Susan may not like the book John is researching now after she finds out why he wants to interview her father, but John is willing to tell her about things others won't. After all, John was best friends with Susan's older half-brother, so he knew the family before. (Unlike John, Paul van Pelt didn't survive the war.)

Susan begins to suspect that something is very wrong at her father's house. If so, who is involved? Whom can she trust?

The descriptions of South Africa's Cape Town are interesting, even an ugly incident Susan witnesses. Blue Fire is a good example of the romantic suspense genre.

I read Black Amber only last month, so I'm pretty much copying and pasting the review I wrote then. The juvenile mystery counterpart for this book was Mystery of the Golden Horn. Although both take place in Turkey, the reader cannot expect a young woman of 22 to have the same experiences as a schoolgirl.

Tracy is one of those heroines who grew up in the shadow of a beautiful and glamorous older sister. Anabel was also overly dramatic. Her frantic phone call to her sister in New York -- just another crying of wolf? Tracy can't afford to lose her cherished magazine job to come running, but luck brings her a chance to help with the book Anabel's husband, Miles, is writing and illustrating. How fortunate that Anabel and Tracy had different fathers, so there's no need to mention her relationship at work. Anabel was in the habit of pretending she had no family (while keeping in touch with Tracy), so not even Miles will know. The name Anabel gave her lovely white angora cat is her pet name for Tracy, the significance of which will become clear later.

Miles really needs help sorting his messy manuscript pages and detailed drawings. The scene where Tracy tells him off and proves her point made me chuckle. Tracy is being allowed to stay for a week. Can she find out what what's going on at the Erim household in so short a time? That something deadly is going on becomes increasingly apparent as Tracy herself starts receiving the same kind of warnings that prompted Anabel's call.

I didn't guess who was behind it all and there's a scene that I'm thankful not to have found in later books (I suspect reader protests), but it's a good specimen of romantic suspense. The glimpse of what Turkey was like during the earlier years of the 1960s was interesting.
  JalenV | May 23, 2014 |
Loved Blue Fire, not so much Black Amber. Blue Fire left me with a long-term fascination with South Africa. ( )
  macmo | Apr 4, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Phyllis A. Whitneyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Woolhiser, JackCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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