Egyptologist Amelia Peabody, her husband Emerson (the Father of Curses) and their family – both blood and extended – have returned to Egypt for the 1922 season. Once again Emerson’s hopes of excavating in the prized Valley of the Kings have been dashed, as Lord Carvarvon has maintained his concession. Most distressing of all, he, like most Egyptologists, had concluded the Valley had revealed all there was until Emerson pushed him to surrender the concession. For Emerson, who is less subtle than he believes, is convinced the tomb of the near-forgotten boy king Tutankhamon is waiting to be discovered. And within days of excavation archeologist Howard Carter, under the aegis of Lord Carnarvon, has indeed discovered what looks very much like (and modern day readers know) an unscavenged, near-intact tomb.
Yet, astonishingly, Amelia has greater things to concern her – chiefly the reappearance of her brother-in-law, Sethos, in danger of his life, and a mysterious document in impenetrable code, the possession of which is putting her loved ones at great risk.
This is the eighteenth Peabody mystery, and Peters (an Egyptologist herself) has maintained a compelling consistency throughout the series. The characters are engaging, the plots involving, the story arcs that extend throughout are satisfying, and she has managed, like Kerry Greenwood, to create characters who are relatable to a modern audience while retaining consistency with their own time.
Like so many well loved series, a significant part of the enjoyment of the book was reconnecting with characters I like and respect. The relationships between characters are complicated, each book is coloured by and intricately involved with events of those that went before, and reading the series out of order would rob the reader of much of the satisfaction that is otherwise available. If you like strong women, exotic locales, manly men, intelligent writing, real family values, and glimpses into other worlds, start with The Crocodile on the Sandbank and thank your lucky stars you have a substantial backlog before having to wait for the next one to be written. – Alex