I made the deadline this month! Just.
Right, after umm-ing and ahh-ing about the choice of books, I went for an Amelia Peabody book. Despite only stumbling onto this series relatively recently (I read the first one just over two years ago, and the first book “Crocodile on the Sandbank” was written back in 1975), I love love love this series. I cannot describe how much I adore the Amelia books. It is one of my all-time favourite series. Ever.
In case you haven’t read any of these books yet (in which case, what are you waiting for?!), these are mysteries set in turn-of-the-century Egypt. Amelia, her husband Emerson, her son Ramses, and other family members are keen archaeologists, who manage to embroil themselves in mysteries and mayhem during their annual excavations. And yes, there is a strong romance element in these books.
I chose “The Mummy Case”, because this is the first book where Ramses (Amelia and Emerson’s son) plays a large part – and I am completely infatuated with Ramses. This is the first time I’ve re-read TMC since finishing the Peabody series, and it was interesting to revisit these characters early on in their family life. I wonder if Ms Peters knew where she was going to take these characters in later books when she wrote the early ones?
These books are written in Amelia’s POV, journal-style (though in later ones, Ramses and others’ POV are also included), and Amelia is on fire in this book. Her relationship with Ramses is forefront in this one, with her attempts to conceal her pride in her son (even in her personal journal) hilarious. And I love her matter-of-factness about things; this is a typical paragraph:
[Ramses] was also alarmingly precocious. A lady of my acquaintance used that term to me, after Ramses, aged four, had treated her to a lecture on the proper method of excavating a compost heap (hers, in point of fact). (Her gardener was extremely abusive.) When I replied that in my opinion, the adjective was ill-chosen, she believed me to be offended. What I meant was the word was inadequate. “Catastrophically precocious” would have been nearer the mark. (p.6)
The running joke in this book is Emerson’s reproaches to Amelia for being undemonstrative towards Ramses, but after one of the final scenes, I don’t think he will ever accuse her of being unmaternal again!
As always, Ms Peters brings late 19th-century Egypt to life. There is one scene when Amelia and Emerson set out to a rendezvous with a possible villain in the midst of the old city at night – incredibly atmospheric and wonderfully suspenseful. Ms Peters’ love and knowledge of Egypt shine through in her writing and always make me want to visit Egypt – this is an example:
[The pyramids of Dahshoor] are built of white limestone, and this snowy covering exhibits bewitching changes of tint, according to the quality of light – a mazy gold at sunset, a ghostly translucent pallor under the glow of the moon. Now, at a little past noon, the towering structures shone dazzlingly white against the deep blue of the sky. (p.132)
Ahhh… there is so much I loved about this book that I have no idea how I’m going to cover it all. The chaos that follows young Ramses despite his parents’ best efforts, Amelia’s passion for pyramids, Emerson’s insistence that he doesn’t want to get tangled up in mysteries (hah!), the multiplying mummy cases…
Oh yes, and the ending in this book is brilliant. Without giving too much away, Amelia and Emerson end up in what seems like a hopeless situation (and I do mean hopeless), and how Ms Peters resolves it and the aftermath is incredibly funny.
“The Mummy Case” is packed with hilarious scenes, Egyptian detail, characters that capture your heart, and a plot full of twists and turns. This is a wonderful installment in the Amelia Peabody series, and I’m glad I chose to re-read it for this challenge. In fact, I’ll probably continue on to the others now.
Back cover blurb:
The irascible husband of Victorian Egyptologist Amelia Peabody is living up to his reputation as ‘The Father of Curses’. Denied permission to dig at the Pyramids of Dahshoor, Emerson is awarded instead the ‘Pyramids’ of Mazghunah – countless mounds of rubble in the middle of nowhere. Nothing in this barren spot seems of any interest – but then a murder in Cairo changes all of that. The dead man was an antiques dealer, killed in his shop, so when a sinister-looking Egyptian spotted at the crime scene turns up in Mazghunah, Amelia can’t resist following his trail. At the same time she has to keep an eagle eye on her wayward son Ramses and his elegant and calculating cat and look into the mysterious disappearance of a mummy case…