Publication Date: 1985
Length: 313 pages
My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐☆☆
This is the third installment in a very entertaining series. I'd also say informative because I have learned a lot about pyramids and archaeology from these books! The author held a Ph.D. in Egyptology so even though these books are fiction and meant for fun, she really knows her stuff and it shines through as authentic. The main characters, Amelia Peabody and her husband Emerson Radcliffe, as well as their precocious tyke Ramses are witty and sarcastic and all the things I love about good historical fiction heroes and heroines.
When this story begins, Amelia and Emerson are in England, trying to adjust to domestic life. They dream of working in Egypt again and Emerson longs to go to a place called Dahshoor for their next adventure. When another archaeologist is given the permission to excavate the site they are disheartened and even more so when the only place they are able to go is Mazghunah, not their first choice as there is nothing interesting or romantic there. It is in a desolate part of the pyramids and embarrassing for Emerson, who feels it is far beneath his standing to take it on in a meaningful way. With no other choice available they decide to make the effort anyway, and end up bringing son Ramses along with a grateful, yet naive minded servant, John.
Things appear to be mundane and uneventful until a local man is found hanging in his antiquities shop, and the case is presented as an unfortunate case of suicide. As Amelia and Emerson do some investigating they are convinced it is something more sinister.
Meanwhile, two religious groups appear to be clashing, the local Coptic Egyptian Christians and another band of American missionaries. Each is determined to stake out their claim to the lost souls of the area and neither is very understanding of the other groups' ways. Amelia and Emerson, being of no particular religious persuasion, do not care to be involved but things seem to move in such a way that they are slowly pulled into the animosity and are forced to conclude that there are things going on under the surface that may be connected to other, darker happenings.
Ramses becomes attached to his own dig site run by none other than Emerson's nemesis (who he sees as the thief of the place that should rightfully have been his) one Jacques de Morgan, an actual historical figure that Peters inserted into her fictional story. He is arrogant, yet knowledgeable and although Ramses is allowed to tag along on some adventures, it is clear that his father is not thrilled. Things come to a climax as the Radcliffes start to seem to be targeted by a thief who breaks into their residence and as they feel more threatened they realize all the clues between the death of the shop owner, the religious sects, and a fire all are related in some way. For their safety and well being they have to figure out how.
I always enjoy the author's use of unique vocabulary, setting, and history. She does a great job of weaving humor into the story, often at Emerson's expense, as Amelia loves to challenge him and assert her womanly independence whenever possible. They have a clearly defined romantic attachment underneath their sparring that shines through and although Amelia does not appear to love all things motherhood, she tempers what is Emerson's sometimes overly sentimental feelings toward Ramses and his antics.
The mystery part of the story was a bit confusing and felt disjointed. I didn't think the plot was very strong and was kind of pieced together without a real plan. This is because I kept waiting for it all to come together at the end and honestly, I didn't find the resolution very believable. It didn't matter though because I still enjoyed the other things. Normally with a cozy mystery you'd want the mystery part to be stronger but if the characters are drawn well and are interesting enough, they can carry a mediocre story line. I'd still recommend not skipping this one if you are reading the books in order. And I give a lot of grace in series books....it's hard to make every one of them stand out.
My only other problems with it were that yes, Ramses could get a bit annoying with his overly, unlikely genius vocabulary and as in book two, I didn't relate to Amelia's lack of motherly affection. But probably the biggest annoyance for me is that the author seems to have a subtle, yet marked disdain for Christians and their beliefs. Being one myself it can get old when she makes a habit of repeatedly letting us know through her protagonist just how ridiculous she finds us. But again, it is not strong enough to make me shun the books....just a bit disheartening and personal. One has to weigh the pros and cons of any book and this is an area for me to consider.
I will definitely continue with book four at some point. This series is unique and historically accurate enough that I want to know what happens next.