by Elizabeth Peters
Second book in the Amelia Peabody series; the first book was reviewed here
A few years have past since Amelia's grand adventure in Egypt. She's now a respectable matron having tea parties with other, equally respectable women while her husband Emerson teaches at the local school. They hate it, but what else can they do until their son is old enough to travel to Egypt with them? Ramses, as he is affectionately called, is a clever but tyrannical little boy, rather like his doting parents. Just as life in a proper English home becomes unbearable, a beautiful widow begs Emerson to take over a tomb excavation previously run by her husband, Lord Baskerville. Amelia and Emerson promptly drop Ramses off with his aunt and uncle and race to Egypt, where they find a disorganized worksite filled with mutinous workers who believe a ghost stalks the grounds. With a mysterious someone or something threatening her husband to prevent further work on the tomb, Amelia's determined to figure out the identity of the so-called ghost.
The mystery at the heart of this book isn't especially difficult to solve, although the large cast of characters and red herrings did make me question my early guess. It's very much like an episode of Scooby Doo, with stock characters being set up more for humor than deep, head-scratching mystery. But there were little substories in the background that surprised me. A budding relationship between two of Emerson's employees at the dig site seemed to come out of the blue, since all the clues (and Amelia herself) were all pointing to a different romantic entanglement.
Amelia can be so stubborn and self-righteous at times that she's nigh unbearable; were it not for frequent mistakes bringing her tumbling back down to earth she'd be insufferable instead of funny. In this book, she's wrestling with her love of Egypt and her work and her duty to her son. It's a very modern conundrum – she doesn't want child-rearing to become her raison d'être because she loves archaeology so much, but at the same time she doesn't want to be a bad mother, either. When/if I have children, I know this is something I will surely wrestle with too, so I really sympathized with Amelia when she fretted over Ramses.
It's an enjoyable and light-hearted read. It's quite silly, but has enough history built into the story that the reader will probably walk away with some new knowledge about ancient Egypt.
3.5 out of 5 stars
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