Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Curse of the Pharaohs by Elizabeth Peters

After reading the first two Amelia Peabody novels almost back-to-back, I noticed some similarities between them. Since those parallels involve the solutions to the mysteries, I won’t divulge their secrets. However what imagination Ms. Peters may lack in motives, she certainly has no deficiency in describing late nineteenth century Egypt.

The Curse of the Pharaohs takes place several years after the events of Crocodile on the Sandbank. Amelia is happily married to her gruff but adoring husband Radcliffe Emerson and they are proud parents of precocious five year-old Walter, nicknamed Ramses.

The novel opens in dreary old England with Amelia and Emerson longing for the hot dry climes of Egypt. Although Amelia considers herself the utmost of proper Victorian Englishwomen, her hilariously disastrous attempt at hosting a tea party proves otherwise.

She and Emerson have been devouring the latest news of an archaeologist who died after the discovery of a tomb in Egypt, supposedly due to a pharaoh’s curse. His assistant disappears shortly afterwards.

Naturally, Amelia and Radcliffe are thrilled when the archaeologist’s widow implores them to continue her husband’s work. Soon they are back in Luxor and confronting more obstacles and roadblocks than the tons of rubble blocking the entrance to the tomb.

Another aspect the second novels shares with the first is the Scooby-Doo type presence of a spooky specter. In Crocodile, a mummy prowled the excavation site. In Curse, it’s a mysterious lady in white. However, Amelia, armed with her ever-ready, lethal parasol and her woman’s intuition, uncover the real source of the strange deaths which have nothing to do with a curse. She also can’t resist playing match-maker a second time, mentoring another emotionally fragile young woman deal with multiple suitors.

Despite the numerous repeats, I thought Curse of the Pharaohs was a great follow-up to the first. Amelia’s marriage to Emerson is as strong and stable as ever, even with two of the strongest personalities in England. The story brings ancient Egypt to life although set in the nineteenth century.

I hope the third novel breaks away from the cookie-cutter recipe of the first and second.

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