* Prices may differ from that shown
This is the second novel in the excellent Egyptology murder mystery series, set around five years after the first. The series is based around the adventures of Amelia Peabody and her family, and the second instalment is just as good as the first.
Following Peabody and Emerson's marriage at the end of the first book, the two of them are back in England, with their five-year-old son, Walter Ramses, who is proving a bit of a handful even at this early age! Emerson is eager to get back to Egypt, as the prehistoric archaeology of southern England is not quite to his taste, and even Peabody is beginning to yearn for the country she fell in love with. The perfect opportunity is provided when Lady Baskerville asks them to take over her late husband's excavations in the Valley of the Kings. Her husband died in mysterious circumstances, just before opening the tomb, so of course, rumours of a curse abound, and no other archaeologists will touch it. The Emersons are not affected by any such nonsense, though, and so set of for Egypt, leaving their son behind. Once they get there, they find the media have been fired up by talk of a curse, and it is almost impossible to get any work done; in particular, the Irish journalist Kevin O'Connell is determined to get a story no matter what. Peabody is certain that it wasn't a curse that killed Lord Baskerville, but equally certain that his death was not from natural causes...
In many ways, the second novel is quite similar to the first; Elizabeth Peters has hit on a winning formula and sticks to it. We get a delicious mix of archaeological adventures, and murder mystery. As an archaeologist myself, with particular interest in Egyptology, I love all the little details that make the excavations so realistic for their period. The main characters are just as charming as ever; Peabody with her implacable common-sense, and Emerson with his apparent temper hiding a great tenderness. Although he doesn't appear much in this story, their son Walter, better known as Ramses, is set up to be a brilliant addition to alter books. Already he shows a tremendous precocity, excavating the compost heap in search of bones! Also introduced in this book are a few recurring characters; the journalist O'Connell has a huge part to play, despite Emerson's dislike of him, and there is also Cyrus Vandergelt, the wealthy American amateur, who becomes one of the family's closest friends. The style of writing is brilliant; very tongue-in-cheek, in parody of a lot of late Victorian adventure novels, and it made me laugh out loud in places. The plot, while entertaining enough, is not particularly important. What is important is the characters, and the way they react to the plot, as well as the rich and beautiful setting of Egypt. I would fully recommend these series. Those interested in early Egyptology will adore the period details, but even those who aren't will warm to the lively characters, and the overblown romantic style of writing.
This book is the second book in the Amelia Peabody series. I started to read the Elizabeth Peters books several years ago and got hooked on her amusing style of writing which I think is very mischievous and tongue in cheek.
About the Author
Now Elizabeth Peters is a nom de plume and her real name is Barbara G. Mertz
This is her blurb from her internet site about herself
"Barbara G. Mertz studied at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, receiving an M.A. in 1950 and a Ph.D. in Egyptology in 1952. In 1950 she married Richard Mertz and had two children, Elizabeth and Peter. She was divorced in 1969. A past president of American Crime Writers League, she presently serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of KMT, A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt. She is also a member of the Egypt Exploration Society and the James Henry Breasted Circle of the Oriental Institute. Under her own name she is the author of Temples, Tombs and Hieroglyphs, A Popular history of Ancient Egypt and Red Land, Black Land, Daily Life in Ancient Egypt. Under her pseudonym as Barbara Michaels she has written twenty nine novels of suspense. As Elizabeth Peters, she has produced thirty seven mystery-suspense novels, many of them set in Egypt and the Middle East.
About the series
This is a wonderful murder mystery series set mainly in Egypt though some of the books are in the surrounding counties too. They are set in the Victorian period when archeology was a favorite pastime of the rich. The first book in the series "crocodile on a sandbank" (see review) introduces you to the courtship over dead bodies and walking mummies of Amelia Peabody and Radclife Emerson. They take the archeological world by storm and hold no prisoners whether it's a master criminal or somebody getting an excavation wrong. The classic line often heard in the books is another body Peabody! The series spans a couple of decades and as we get to know the Emerson's the line up in the family extends to include son's daughters nieces nephew and assorted cats. The series is a great murder mystery with a huge waft of Egypt and archeology.
About this book
Synopsis from Amazon
"When Lady Baskerville's husband Sir Henry dies after discovering what may have been an undisturbed royal tomb in Luxor, she appeals to eminent archaeologist Radcliffe Emerson and his wife Amelia to take over the excavation. Amid rumors of a curse haunting all those involved with the dig, the intrepid couple precedes to Egypt, where they begin to suspect that Sir Henry did not die a natural death, and they are confident that the accidents that plague the dig are caused by a sinister human element, not a pharaoh's curse."
After leaving her son, affectionately nicknamed Ramses, with her in-laws, Peabody and Emerson are off to the land of the Pharaohs again for another season of archeology and murder mystery.
The pace of the novel as with all the Amelia Peabody series is fairly fast with twists turns and red herrings coming thick and fast at the reader. Peters as a writer manages to keeps everyone under suspicion so you are left guessing to the identity of the murderer. You end up changing your mind several times as to who is the murderer as new information is added to the plot.
The colorful descriptions and personal insights revealed by the narrator give each character a three-dimensional quality. The characters are well rounded and not mealy a villain or a victim but sometimes both. The main characters of Amelia and Radcliffe are one of my favorite combinations in fiction and really deserve a little space to explain about them. Amelia Peabody, the protagonist, is a strong-minded, outspoken, and something of a Victorian super-heroine, really she is the uber-Victorian feminist. She takes the stuffy world of archaeology by storm with her no nonsense dress sense which we hear more about as the series continues. She has very forthright opinions which she makes no bones about expressing. Radcliffe her husband is an intelligent but belligerent archeologist who soon realizes he's met his match in Amelia. He comes across as a very gruff but you warm to him very quickly, least I did as a woman I think he is designed and written to appeal as a strong but gentle gentleman. He has a strong sense of right and wrong and he is always right till Amelia tells him other wise! His Egyptian name is "father of curses," which sums up nicely how he handles some people. Particularly touching is the relationship between them and it makes you as the reader envy their personal and professional partnership as it is full of tenderness and spark.
The cast of characters in the book include disguised nobility, craven widows, young lovers, and the rejected social climber it really is on a par with one of the best Agatha Christie novels in my opinion. This is also the first book in which we meet Cyrus Vandergelt who over time becomes one of the closest friend of the family.
The knowledgeable references to Ancient Egypt throughout the novel I think will appeal to those both those experienced in and those new to Egyptian history. This is where the author's background in Egyptology clearly shines through and she takes the reader gently by the hand to provide a little bit of education amid the amusing fiction. The mystery inherent in Egyptian tombs and pyramids serves as the perfect backdrop for a crime-solver hence I guess the multitude of murder mysteries set there, but this series and this book is a step above the rest in my opinion.
Peters also conjures on the page very well the Victorian era and how they traveled abroad with everything including the kitchen sink. Some of the scenes as they get ready to go and are setting up camp as it were are just full of great detail and fun.
The writing is witty and very sharp and often I would be giggling out loud when reading one of Amelia's thoughts or remarks much to the annoyance of my husband.
Another fabulous who done it by Elizabeth Peters starring her wonder sharp witted Victorian Egyptologist Amelia Peabody a definite recommend not only of this book but read the series
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Robinson Publishing (29 Jun 2006)
Currently on sale on Amazon for £5.49