What could be more thrilling than getting to read Elizabeth Peters while sailing the Nile? Possibly getting to watch a dig in the Valley of the Kings, where after observing workmen haul baskets of rubble to a truck you can turn to your mother and exclaim, We’re the confounded tourists! and know that she is every bit as excited about this as you are.
For those of you unfamiliar with Peters’ Amelia Peabody mysteries and the above anathema, let me take a moment to enlighten you. This engaging, intelligent series follows a family of British Egyptologists during the early 1900s, who constantly have their work interrupted by “unusual” or criminal activity. Never ones to shirk their duty or ignore a plea for help, the Emersons can always be counted on to apply their deductive reasoning to unravel a mystery, whether contemporary or scholarly in nature; and you can be sure someone will be shot, kidnapped, drugged, or trapped in a tomb shaft along the way. Peters, who is a trained Egyptologist herself, peppers her novels with Egyptian history and has created some of my favorite fictive personages, lead by the indomitable Amelia Peabody Emerson.
I selected The Serpent on the Crown to accompany me to Egypt. It was such a pleasure to return to the world of Amelia Peabody and the mysteries and adventures right outside her door–or barging through her door in this case, in the form of a frantic woman bearing a “cursed” golden statue. Pressed into her service the Emersons find their work in Deir el Medina and the Valley of the Kings interrupted by a “black effrit” and other mysterious circumstances. Once again they must rally their infallible fighting spirit to discover the truth of the matter and the origins of the golden statue.
Set in 1922 and with Howard Carter’s arrival on the scene, one can’t help but speculate where such a spectacular artifact was found. Elizabeth Peters delivers another delightful installment to the series and leaves her readers’ chests filled with anticipation and their minds fixed on the seeming promise of treasure.