Saturday, April 23, 2016
#19 [2016/CBR8] "The Curse of the Pharaohs" by Elizabeth Peters
The Curse of the Pharaohs begins about three years (I think?) after the ending of the first book. Amelia has married Radcliffe Emerson--her love interest/soul mate from the first book, she's just recently had a child, and they've settled down to a relatively peaceful life in England. When there is news from Egypt that a cursed tomb is wreaking havoc, killing people left and right, Peabody and Emerson cannot help but take over the dig. Neither one believes for a second that the tomb is actually cursed, and they are prepared to solve the mystery. Leaving their son, Ramses, with Emerson's brother and wife, the two set off on another adventure.
In Egypt, Emerson and Peabody must contend with a mysterious white figure, knives falling out of closets, a nosy reporter, a man in disguise, a Texan, and some crazy women. In addition, the two are trying to find the opening to the tomb before it is robbed, relying on local laborers who are terrified of the supposed curse. In the meantime, the body count rises. Amelia Peabody is her normal self, taking control with aplomb and amusingly exaggerated self-confidence.
I did enjoy this book, but not quite as much as the first. The mystery was both repetitive and more convoluted than the first book. I think part of the problem was that I was listening to this book on CD, but if I stopped paying attention for a second, I would get the characters confused. The first book possibly felt more clear because there were fewer characters to keep straight. Even after the "after the mystery" discussion where all is revealed, I couldn't look back on the narrative with a lot of understanding. So many people were murdered, a normal motive didn't quite fit the story. In the end, I was disappointed.
I was also disturbed by pretty much all discussions of Ramses, Peabody and Emerson's son. The couple have Ramses, and then promptly leave him with family for months when he is newborn. Then they leave him again for months to go to Egypt. I'm all for parents following their dreams and balancing family and their passions, but that long of a separation at that age could be nothing but traumatic for Ramses. And of course, Ramses is a boisterous, precocious child, but he felt more cartoon than flesh and blood. Sure, the other characters are something of exaggerated caricatures, and maybe Ramses was supposed to fit in with them, but for whatever reason, it just creeped me out. So, Ramses is a creepy, neglected child, and I couldn't understand why he was in the book because he was not a part of the main mystery. I'm assuming that Peters was setting him up for use in later stories, but he took me completely out of the story.
I really enjoyed Crocodile on the Sandbank, and I was expecting a lot from this second novel. I definitely enjoyed the first one more, but there were still parts of the second that made me smile. I think I'll at least get to the third, and gauge my reactions from there.