by Elizabeth Peters
I've reviewed the previous two books in the Amelia Peabody series: Crocodile on the Sandbank (#1) and The Curse of the Pharaohs (#2)
Amelia and Radcliffe Emerson are happy to return to Egypt to continue their excavations. This time, they arrive in the land of the pharaohs with their young son Ramses in tow. It isn’t long before the clever boy is getting into all sorts of trouble, but he isn’t their biggest problem – after failing to reign in his temper in a fight with the Department of Antiquities, the best site that Emerson can secure them to work is Mazguhnah. Unlike the glamorous pyramids of Giza or Dahshoor, Mazguhnah’s mudbrick tombs are falling apart. But a pyramid is still a pyramid, and the intrepid archaeologists make the best of a poor deal. Meanwhile, Amelia’s heard rumors about an especially rare papyrus making its way through the illegal antiquities market, and she’s determined to have it for her brother-in-law, Walter. Her attempts to track it down bring her family to the attention to an assortment of villains, all too happy to steal and murder as it suits them.
As always, the characters are all quite strong, although several of them are stereotypes painted with an especially broad brush. There’s an American missionary determined to convert every last heathen in Egypt, and in the process he’s constantly interfering with the Emersons’ work. But his young, naïve companions provide Amelia with the perfect excuse to indulge one of her favorite hobbies – matchmaking. It’s all quite over the top, but it’s quite fun…until we get to Ramses. The precocious boy is dreadfully tedious at times; he has a habit of pontificating on whatever subject floats into his mind, subjecting his parents (and the reader) to rambling speeches until his mother reminds him, in irritation, to “get to the point!” I can see him becoming a useful character in a few years, when he’s a bit older, but as it is the child is dreadfully annoying and I wish he’d go back to England.
This was not a particularly fun read. The mystery wasn’t very engaging – in fact, it was pretty forgettable. The old characters are a delight. I love the way Amelia and Emerson bicker and play lovey-dovey - sometimes in the same breath – and enjoyed them as much as ever. But the new characters were boring and bogged the story down.
I’ve heard that the Amelia Peabody stories tend to be pretty hit-or-miss from one book to the next. I’d say this one is definitely a ‘miss’.
2.5 out of 5 stars
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