The Curse of the Pharaohs

The Curse of the Pharaohs is the second installment in Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody series... and does anyone else think it's weird that it's only the second book and she's married, thus is no longer named Amelia Peabody? It's Amelia Emerson now, though her husband Radcliffe Emerson (usually just called Emerson) uses "Peabody" as a term of endearment. At the close of The Crocodile on the Sandbank, we knew what was in store for the Emersons -- a few years of happy excavations and the promise of a baby, perfectly planned to arrive after their working season with enough time for Amelia to be ready to return to work the following season. Well, here we learn that their blessed bundle of joy turned out to be a boy, named Walter for his uncle... but unsurprisingly is quite precocious and is turning out to be a bit of a tyrant, thus more frequently referred to as "Ramses." Indeed, after their first season away from the boy, Radcliffe found he couldn't bear to be parted from his offspring, and since even the Emersons realized one should probably not take an infant/toddler out to the deserts of Egypt, they spent five years in England, slowly going out of their minds with boredom.

Thank goodness for mysterious deaths and Egyptian curses, because it's the combination of these two things that give the Emersons the excuse they need to return to Egypt. Ramses is left with his capable Aunt Evelyn and Uncle Walter while the Emersons go to take over a famous excavation that has captured the attention of the tabloids due to the mysterious death of the expedition leader, Lord Baskerville. Without an apparent cause of death and the sudden disappearance of a trusted crew members goes missing, the tabloids naturally assume that this chap must have killed Lord Baskerville. This is all interesting to Amelia, of course, who considers herself to be a bit of a sleuth in addition to an uncertified lady doctor. Emerson, however, is much more concerned with the tomb... and possibly a little bit with the widow of Lord Baskerville, who evidently has known Emerson for a long time. While we the readers know that Emerson would never go astray, the woman in question is certainly one to keep an eye on. Mix in the expedition photographer (who is really Lord Baskerville's estranged brother's son in disguise and thus the heir and new Lord Baskerville), a vile drunkard of a woman who fancies she can remember her past lives (which happen to include Emerson as her husband and lover), the woman's lovely daughter, a German expedition member who worships Emerson's brother's work, and an American amateur Egyptologist looking to get in on all the action... well, once again, we have a work that is far more entertaining for the characters than the mystery.

The mystery is, indeed, quite easy to figure out -- at least this time, Emerson and Amelia write their respective guesses and leave them in a sealed envelope, proving that our dynamic duo each at least solved the case around the same time as the reader. I would have to admit that I didn't enjoy The Curse of the Pharoahs as much as I had hoped, though it was a perfectly pleasant and quick read. I was warned upon starting this series that I should brave it out for a few books before things picked up -- and I believe this might be the book to spark such a warning. It isn't that anything is particularly wrong, it's just not terribly fresh. Emerson and Amelia are charming in their banter -- it's nice to see a couple that can feud well and you still believe that they can be in love at the same time. I predict that Ramses will be quite a handful and, indeed, perhaps a bit annoying if we have a few books where he's still quite young... so I'm thankful for at least this book where we can still enjoy Emerson and Amelia on their own. Again, a quick read and an amusing installment, but I must admit I'm looking for Peters to sharpen her sleuthing skills so that we have some more interesting cases to which we can look forward.

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