Books: Have Parasol, Will Travel
Volume 57 Number 3, May/June 2004
by Mark Rose
||Writer Elizabeth Peters, who earned her
doctorate from the University of Chicago, has been named a Grandmaster by the Mystery Writers of America. [LARGER IMAGE]|
Best-selling mystery writer Elizabeth Peters, the pen name of Egyptologist Barbara Mertz, has just come out with the sixteenth Amelia Peabody mystery, Guardian of the Horizon (New York: William Morrow, 2004; $24.95). Set in 1907-1908, it continues the adventures of the fictional Peabody and her husband, Radcliffe Emerson, an eminent Egyptologist known for his outspokenness, which has earned him the sobriquet Abu Shitaim, or Father of Curses. The duo are cooling their heels back in England after Emerson has gotten them kicked out of the Valley of the Kings for verbally savaging American businessman Theodore Davis (for botching the excavation of Tomb 55) and cursing Gaston Maspero, head of the Egyptian Service des Antiquités (for letting Davis do it).
In the midst of Emerson's monumental sulk, a strange visitor bearing an urgent request for their help arrives from the Holy City, a lost remnant of Egyptian-Nubian civilization in a desert oasis. Emerson takes the visitor to the British Museum, for which Peabody, fearful of too many questions being asked, upbraids her husband. His response is that "the only person we ran into was [British Museum curator E.A. Wallis] Budge, and he wouldn't know a Bishari tribesman from a Bedouin." Soon, the would-be rescuers--Amelia armed with her trusty parasol--head for the Nile. Adventure and mystery follow.
Peters' writing works on several levels. She maintains a fast-paced mystery story, her characters are complex, and the fictional cast interacts with historical figures convincingly. All of this sets Guardian of the Horizon a notch above most other books on The New York Times bestseller list. If this series is your cup of tea, you'll also want to check out Amelia Peabody's Egypt (New York: William Morrow, 2003; $29.95), a companion volume that provides all the historical background, with numerous vintage photographs and illustrations from news magazines of the day.
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© 2004 by the Archaeological Institute of America