The Curse of the Pharaohs

By: Elizabeth Peters

Series: Amelia Peabody Mysteries

Book Number: 2

Star Rating:

Sensuality Rating:



Spoiler Disclaimer


Amelia Peabody Emerson and her husband, Radcliffe Emerson, have been back in England for several years. While raising their precocious son, Ramses, is an adventure in itself, they both long to return to Egypt to continue digging through the sands of time. Word reaches them of the mysterious death of Lord Baskerville, an amateur archaeologist, who had discovered an ancient burial chamber near Luxor. When his widow comes calling asking Emerson to take charge of her late husband's dig site, he and Amelia can hardly contain their enthusiasm. As they go back to Egypt and begin their excavation of a tomb that they believe may belong to a Pharaoh, Amelia starts to think that Lord Baskerville's death may not have been a natural one. Amelia and Emerson must contend with a group of eccentric guests who are keeping secrets and superstitious workers who are frightened by a curse and a ghostly apparition of a woman. Then a string of more perplexing deaths make Amelia certain that something foul is afoot, but will she and Emerson be able to identify the culprit before they become the next victims?


The Curse of the Pharaohs was another fun installment in the Amelia Peabody mystery/adventure series. The story begins with Amelia and Radcliffe Emerson enjoying the bliss of married life back in England, but their seemingly idyllic existence isn't exactly placid thanks to an incredibly precocious four-year-old running amok. At the same time, life holds no real challenge for Emerson who is now a professor of archeology at the university and Amelia who has been reduced to motherhood and the occasional tea party which she loathes. Both of them deeply yearn for their beloved Egypt and all the mysteries and antiquities that she holds, so when the opportunity to return presents itself, they jump at the chance. Of course, murder and mayhem ensue while Amelia and Emerson attempt to excavate a tomb which they believe may belong to a Pharaoh.

Amelia and Emerson are still in fine form, and I enjoyed their newfound interactions as a married couple. In public, they employ their acerbic tongues to amusing effect with lots of witty bantering which could sometimes be quite fun to read. In private, they eagerly and generously share their affection and passion for one another (without details of course), but their tender feelings are still quite apparent even in veiled euphemisms. I loved that Amelia and Emerson trust each other explicitly and seem to have a healthy marriage free of any jealousies. I also like how they can tease each other without hurt feelings and understand each other completely. Even though their individual personalities differ quite a bit from mine and my husband's, I could still relate to their relationship quite well. Amelia and Emerson are just a really fun and entertaining couple to read about.

Individually, Emerson and Amelia each has a very strong personality that has certain elements which can be a little off-putting, but at the same time rather endearing. Emerson is as blustery and irascible as he was in the first book, yet he always manages to command the respect of everyone around him. I like that he regards Amelia as his intellectual equal, his partner not only in life but in the work they both love so much. He has also turned into a doting papa to their little son, Ramses. I couldn't help but laugh at this big galoot being reduced to babbling baby talk to an infant. It was just too cute. Amelia, on the other hand, seemed almost as aloof toward Ramses as Emerson was adoring of him which rather confused me. While I didn't doubt that she cared for her son, Amelia calling Ramses "it" for a short time in infancy and her seeming lack of any compunction toward leaving him for long periods of time to go on digs was a little hard for me to understand. Most of the time Amelia didn't seem to like Ramses very much, however, I will allow that perhaps this was all meant more in jest, and was simply a little too subtle for me to appreciate. Otherwise, Amelia is a fully admirable character that I really liked. She has a very no-nonsense attitude about most everything, but certainly isn't immune to emotions where her beloved husband is concerned. She is also brave, adventurous, has a mind like a steel trap, and is readily sympathetic toward both man and beast alike. I was quite amused by Amelia's disdain for societal conventions. She is definitely a geek of the first order, and I can very much relate to her inability to talk to society women because of their lack of knowledge on the topics that interest her most. Overall, I really like both Emerson and Amelia and think that they are a very well-matched couple.

As with Crocodile on the Sandbank, the first book of the series, The Curse of the Pharaohs seemed to take a little time to build momentum. It started out a bit slowly, but as the story progressed and got into the mystery, there was more action and lots to speculate about. I admit I only half guessed the answer to the puzzle by the time it was revealed. I missed Walter and Evelyn a little, although they appeared briefly at the beginning of the book. However, there was a very large, international and quite colorful cast of new supporting characters, along with at least one Egyptian character, Abdullah, who returned from the first book. Sometimes, I felt like it was a few too many players, as I initially had a hard time keeping all of them straight, but I eventually figured them all out. There were also quite a few flirtations going on, in particular between a certain young lady and her multiple suitors. I thought I had figured out who she should be with, only to be completely and utterly wrong. On the one hand, it was nice to be surprised, and while I wouldn't have wanted the author to make the object of the girl's affections completely obvious, I also had not necessarily felt the chemistry building between the couple, which made it a little anti-climactic for me. Overall, in spite of a few minor weaknesses, The Curse of the Pharaohs was a pleasant diversion with strong characters, an enjoyable mystery to solve and a beautiful exotic setting, with a touch of romance and the fun of an archaeological dig on the side. It doesn't really have any objectionable elements to speak of, which in my opinion would make it suitable for mystery aficionados of all ages, including teens and more sensitive readers. There are currently 18 books in the Amelia Peabody mystery series with The Curse of the Pharaohs being the second book. I definitely look forward to picking up the third book, The Mummy Case, the next time I'm in the mood for a mystery story.


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