by Elizabeth Peters
The fourth book in the Amelia Peabody mystery series.
The Emersons return to Egypt for another season of excavation – this time, at the pyramids of Dashoor, to the delight of Amelia, who has longed to explore a “real” pyramid. But it isn’t long before trouble – as always – finds the Emersons. Antiquities are being looted and sold on the black market in a scheme so well-planned that Amelia’s convinced that there is a “Master Criminal” at work, and her obsession with uncovering his true identity is driving her husband mad. Young Ramses is now old enough to get into plenty of trouble, and he is constantly butting in on his parents’ research, an endless source of irritation for his mother. But mysterious deaths seems to stalk the Emersons, and whenever there’s a mystery Amelia’s sure to poke about, even if it means facing the Master Criminal himself!
I’m getting to the point where I might give up on this series. While I like the characters – I enjoy Amelia and Emerson – the story itself seems to have settled into a very repetitive pattern. As always, Amelia has picked up a couple of stray English travelers – Donald Fraser and Enid Debanum – and when she isn’t excavating she delights in attempting to reform Donald’s hashish addiction and mothering Enid. The two characters are frightfully uninteresting, because we’ve met them before. Enid is the same as every other young girl taken under Amelia’s wing, and Donald doesn’t seem to be any more developed.
The Master Criminal Sethos, if he continues to appear in the series, is no Moriarty. He doesn’t seem to have the cleverness or wits to challenge both Amelia and Emerson. In the final third of the book, he declares that he is madly in love with Amelia, which was predictable and yet seems to come out of left field, because it shifts the narrative into a very different sort of novel. It’s suddenly no longer an admittedly weak mystery adventure, but some sort of bizarre romance novel unfolding on the set of the sultan of a Hollywood movie!
Ramses has begun to be less annoying – he’s much easier to deal with now that he’s lost his “oh so pwecious” lisp. I started to feel rather badly for him, because the boy is clearly intelligent and often will have something important to say, but his impatient mother cuts him off before he can get it out. On the other hand, I sympathize with Amelia on that point, because good grief that kid will talk your ear off if you don’t stop him.
To those who have read the series – is it going to get better? I really liked the first book. But if the series just continues a slow slide to mediocrity, maybe I should stop now before I get really disappointed.
2 out of 5 stars
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Peeking into the archives...today in:
2012: Delilah by India Edgehill
2011: Closing down for end of year Festivus…
2010: The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan
2009: Discussion Question: Buying Textbooks