I loved the first book of the Amelia Peabody mystery series so much that I quickly read through it the very first time I read the series. I am quite sure makes the third time I’ve read Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody books. Like always I am reading the series in order. The second book is The Curse of the Pharaohs, and it is just as good as the first book Crocodile on the Sandbank.
We meet Amelia and her husband Emerson for the first real time as husband and wife in this installment of the Amelia Peabody mysteries. They are stagnating in England of all places while Emerson tries really hard to be a professor instead of an excavator. Why would they do this to themselves? Because they had a baby, and Emerson cannot stand the thought of parting with their son.
Thing are getting rough going into the fifth year of this exile, a self-imposed exile, but still an exile. Emerson isn’t like himself, and Amelia is worried enough she tries to butter up the neighbors in an attempt to get them to agree to an excavation of their barrow. This experience alone is worth reading the book. It is hilarious in the extreme.
The Emerson and Amelia are not helped in their boredom by all the publicity that Egypt is receiving the press. A prominent patron of excavation has died and the press is hollering about their being a curse. Then someone disappears, and the newspapers go wild. How aggravating that they are rusticating away in England.
Out of nowhere the grieving widow, and a woman from Emerson’s checkered past, arrives and begs him to come and take over the excavation. Amelia very handsomely offers to stay behind with their son, but Emerson insists she comes along. The widow doesn’t care for this suggestion at all, and the relationship between her and Amelia makes a comic background to the serious business of excavation and investigation.
Elizabeth Peters has a knack for witty and engaging prose. Because the stories are written by Amelia they are heavily biased with her opinions. This provides extra enjoyment because it is apparent to the readers that Amelia doesn’t always get the irony of her actions. Her agile mind and her almost rivalry with her husband are hilarious, especially when they each write who they think is the murderer and place them in sealed envelopes to be opened at the conclusion of their investigation.
The characters are full-bodied and fleshed out so well that the reader can almost picture them as friends. Their foibles are endearing and humanizing. And, having read all the other books, I can safely say that the characters only improve upon acquaintance.
These books are clean, with maybe a word of two. Since the books are set in Victorian times there are a lot of “Good gad” types of exclamation instead of swearing. Yet another reason to love Elizabeth Peters.
If you haven’t read any of her books you really should give them a try.