Tag Archives: Egypt

The Falcon at the Portal – Elizabeth Peters

Amelia Peabody Emerson inhabits a much darker mystery in this Edwardian Egypt adventure. On the eve of his wedding to Amelia’s niece, her honorary son David is accused of selling forgeries. Her quixotic son Ramses is more sober than in previous trips to Egypt but no less inclined to find real trouble at every turn. Her adopted daughter Nefret is stubbornly independent and scorns all attempts by boyfriend wannabes. Her adored husband, Professor Radcliffe Emerson, lives up to his reputation as the Father of Curses and a larger-than-life, tempestuous presence in England and in Egypt.

Once again Elizabeth Peters’ exuberant crew gets a crummy dig site in Egypt and once again Amelia sets up the perfect household and Emerson anticipates memorable finds. But lovelorn ladies trail after Ramses and besotted beaus flock to Nefret and neither recognizes the other’s affection so their romance is a frustrating nonstarter. Meanwhile, the family tries to discover the source of the bogus antiquities that are being marketed under David’s name while he is off on a Mycenaeian honeymoon.  And then ugly things and odd accidents start to happen at the dig site and all the Emersons seem to be under fire–sometimes literally.

The plot of The Falcon… feels more complex than some of the earlier books. It does go on, and on, but the Egyptology and the feisty characters manage to hold your attention.  I found it a perfectly satisfying read with one exception. Nefret, a reliably appealing character, does one precipitous thing that is so extreme and so jarring that it seems contrived to advance the plot. It definitely does advance the plot–even provides an entree to future episodes–but I didn’t buy it and it spoiled the resolution of the mystery for me somewhat.

Plenty of creepy, sordid and underhanded deeds in this installment of Amelia Peabody in Egypt. Plenty of dusty, sandy, dangerous tombs, spectacular deaths and a few high-maintenance animals, an Emerson family weakness. A new character shows up, too, and might turn out to be a keeper for future books. (I’ve never read these in order of publication as I get them when they show up at our neighborhood library.) Naturally, the new kid is just as much trouble as every other female in these stories so fans of Peters’ work may have another tough chick–a little one–to look forward to. 

The Falcon at the Portal: An Amelia Peabody Novel of Suspense (Amelia Peabody Mysteries)   Elizabeth Peters | Avon 1999

The Mummy Case — Elizabeth Peters

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Amelia Peabody is a strong-willed Egyptologist with definite feminist leanings in late 19th century Britain and she is, much to her surprise, married. Radcliffe Emerson, a distinguished archaeologist with a passion for all things pyramid, is her adoring and combative spouse and before long a small precocious Emerson, nicknamed Ramses, is busy upending their household and their lives.

The Mummy Case is an Elizabeth Peters mystery with Peabody at the heart of the devious doings in the desert outside Cairo but it is Ramses who takes over the book. He travels with mum and dad to Egypt at age six or seven, a child with an unerring instinct for dirt and disaster, a pet cat he calls De Cat Bastet who is fierce, slightly feral and will not be parted from him, a prodigious knowledge of Egyptian antiquity and practically everything, a knack for picking up and translating obscure languages and a habit of bending the English language to his own intentions, despite the explicit regulations of his mother.  

Family and feline set out for Egypt anticipating a rich dig in the temples of Dahshoor, a site only lightly explored with tantalizing potential for major discoveries. Alas, Radcliffe has failed to secure dig permission in time and someone has beat him to it. The Emersons are relegated to a bone-strewn site with no standing pyramids, right next door to the coveted dig. But before they even arrive on the desolate scene, Amanda has stumbled across a murder and a mystery in the commercial byways of Cairo that will threaten their work and her entire family.

Muslims, Coptics, christians and missionaries vie for center stage with eccentric Brits, a pet lion cub, missing antiquities, an odd mummy case and the misadventures of an irrepressible child who invites fresh disaster at every turn. Ramses insists on his speech quirk—to pronounce all “th” sounds as “d” sounds, even as he translates ancient papyri, overhears whispered plots in several languages, conducts his own clandestine excavations and acquires a second ferocious beast to live in his bedroom at the dig site.

The Mummy Case is amusing and instructive, detailing the black market antiquities trade, the supercilious white invaders of a complex, ancient civilization, and the ability of a determined small boy to dominate his world, reveal perfidy and avoid directly disobeying his mother. Ramses makes the intellectual sparring between his brilliant parents, the zealots and crooks, the misguided Brits and the hunt for artifacts fun. He is central to the plot and its resolution, and a welcome addition to the Amanda Peabody sagas. It’s an entertaining read full of vaudevillian characters, improbable developments and a narrative that makes it all believable with the kid and de cat Bastet at the heart of the story. Those two are small but effective heroes who don’t doubt themselves for a second, and neither do we.

The Mummy Case: An Amelia Peabody Novel of Suspense (Amelia Peabody Mysteries)    Elizabeth Peters | William Morrow   2007