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The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog
by Elizabeth Peters
Book Seven in the Amelia Peabody series. Click here to read reviews of earlier books in the series. This review may contain spoilers for previous books in the series.
Amelia and her husband recently adopted a young Egyptian girl and brought her back to their estate in England, where she has struggled to fit in with her contemporaries. Although Nefret looks the part of a proper young lady – her parents were English, even if she was raised overseas – the gaps in her education and knowledge of English social mores make her stand out amongst her classmates. When given the opportunity to return to Egypt with the Emersons during their annual excavations, Nefret declines, prompting Amelia’s son Ramses to stay behind to watch over her. Once back in Egypt, Professor Emerson is promptly kidnapped, and Amelia and her friends scour Egypt as they try to locate him. When he is finally rescued, it’s revealed that Emerson is suffering from amnesia, and remembers nothing of his life during the past fifteen years or so. While this saved Emerson from spilling the family’s secrets to his kidnapper, it also means that Emerson has no recollection of his children or his wife, and that he finds Amelia unwomanly, strange, and especially irksome. Amelia decides that the best thing to do is to seduce her husband once again by working beside him at the same archeological site where they met, but in the meantime Emerson’s kidnapper is still trying to find the information the professor could not provide, and he’s willing to go after the children back in England to get it.
I’m a little disappointed. Amnesia, really? Maybe it’s just me, but I always find amnesia stories to be rather weak and predictable. Combined with a slow start – the narrative often turns sluggish when the Emersons are in England – and a lot of aimless fretting over Emerson’s memories, this book flows about as swiftly as a peanut butter river. Throw in the fact that the reader is certain that the status quo will be restored by the end of the novel, and it really feels like Emerson’s amnesia is dragging on a bit too long.
On the plus side, it isn’t just the archeological site (Amarna) that returns to the story. Several characters from previous novels, including the wealthy American Cyrus Vandergelt and Irish reporter Kevin O’Connell pop up to assist Amelia and stir up mischief, respectively. One of Amelia’s major adversaries from the past drops in, too, although not at all in the way I’d expected. It’s fun to see all these familiar faces, and find out what they’ve been up to in the years since we last saw them. As always, historical personalities are also woven into the text, showing up when appropriate to the story. The story is also to be commended for leaving Ramses in England; he is tolerable in small doses, and his letters to his parents provide comic relief without overburdening the reader with the boy’s loquaciousness.
But again, the amnesia bit is a bit too overdone. If Barbara Rosenblatt wasn’t such a terrific narrator for the series – really, you must check the Amelia Peabody audiobooks out! – I would have docked at least another half star from my score.
3 out of 5 stars
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Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: Catching Fire (Hunger Games #2) by Suzanne Collins
2012: The Coffins of Little Hope by Timothy Schaffert
2011: Sidebar: Review Status for Books
2010: Happy Café Vol. 1 by Kou Matsuzuki
2009: Contest #6: A Tale of Romance for Valentine’s Day