Lion in the Valley and The Deeds of the Disturber

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by Elizabeth Peters

Published 1986, 1988

Amelia Peabody Emerson is back, with husband and son in tow.  I have actually really been enjoying these unique mysteries.  The setting is just so random – 1890’s Egypt?? – and Amelia, for the most part, makes an entertaining and intelligent narrator.  Because she makes no secret of the fact that she believes her writing may be published after her death, the whole fact that she’s writing the story makes sense.  (Frequently, my problem with first-person writing is the constant nagging in the back of my mind – to whom is this person talking!?!? but Amelia is actually writing to the world, and she knows it, and everything flows well because of it.

The Lion in Valley (although I forgot to take a picture of it) was an intriguing mystery, although the book as a whole was not a favorite of mine, mostly because of religion.  Throughout the series, Emerson makes no secret of the fact that he thinks all religion is hogwash, which is fine.  However, especially in Lion, the was a constant insistence that all religion is hooey, and, consequently, that it doesn’t matter if one is a Muslem or a Christian or whatever.  I don’t believe that, and I can’t think that most Moslems do, either.  Religion is, by nature, somewhat exclusionary.  While I believe that you have the right to believe whatever you want to believe, I naturally think that my beliefs are the correct ones …  else, they wouldn’t by my beliefs!  And so, Emerson’s unnecessary lumping together and insulting of religion did begin to wear on my nerves after a while.

Deeds of the Disturber took a twist by being set in London.  Home for the season, the Emersons are hoping to catch up on their writing.  Unfortunately, the Museum in London is being “haunted” – by the priest of a mummy.  This was probably my least favorite of all the mysteries so far.  The story was quite far-fetched, the conclusion completely bizarre, and just – it was weird.  And a bit confusing.

There was also a whole side story where Amelia’s nephew and niece were staying with them.  Throughout the story, it was painfully obvious that Ramses was being bullied and tormented by both siblings, but Amelia and Emerson were so caught up in their mystery that they didn’t notice what was going on.  While Ramses chatter has annoyed me in past books, it was more frustrating to hear him incessantly cut off by parents who assumed that they already knew what he was going to say.  While everything was clear in the end and relationships restored, it was hard for me to get into the mystery when I was so distressed by Ramses’s situation.

Still, on the whole, the series is good and I have been enjoying the stories.  I’m reading the next in the series, The Last Camel Died at Noon, right now, and am quite enjoying it, so hopefully I will have some more good reviews to report soon!

PS It appears that that lack of a picture has confused me for sure!  I just realized that I already mention Lion in the Valley in my last post on the series.  Whoops!

The Curse of the Pharaohs, The Mummy Case, Lion in the Valley

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by Elizabeth Peters

Published 1981, 1985, 1986

Sorry, I don’t seem to have my picture of Lion in the Valley soooo…

Anyway, these three books have all been read within the last month, and I’m not completely confident in my ability to keep their plots apart in my mind, so I decided to review them together.  :-D  These are books 2-4 in the Amelia Peabody series, are are mysteries set in the late 1800’s.  Told by Amelia, the tales are adventures in Egypt with Amelia, her husband Emerson (who is an archaeologist), and their son Ramses (whose real name is actually Walter, but no one calls him that).

These are fun books.  As I said in my review of the first book, The Crocodile on the SandbankI quite enjoy Amelia (except when she’s on her pointless feminist rants).  She and Emerson are very happily married.  Emerson is an excellent husband (in my mind) – he respects Amelia and thinks she is brilliantly intelligent, he listens to her advice and views, and considers her one of his most important workers on the dig, and basically treats her as an equal partner in all things.  On the other hand, he still watches out for her, protects her, and tells her that she’s ravishingly beautiful – in short, he gives her the same respect he gives other men, but cherishes her as a woman.

The mysteries are fun, although sometimes a bit short on mystery.  The Mummy Case, for instance – hopefully not too spoilery here, but the whole wrap-up of that mystery seemed a bit sloppy to me.

While I am enjoying these books and am planning to continue reading through the series, there are two negatives for me.

The first is Ramses.  he travels with his parents to Egypt first in The Mummy Case.  At the age of six or seven, he is brilliantly intelligent for his age and absolutely OBNOXIOUS.  And in this book, Peters has decided to give him a speech impediment, so every time he uses a word with “th,” he pronounces it with a “d,” and that got extremely old VERY FAST, because Ramses talks a LOT and he knows he’s super smart so he’s always going off on these long-winded speeches like “Dis appears to be de mudder of de odder man” and I just wanted to shake him.  Seriously, if he was still using that impediment in Lion in the Valley, I probably wouldn’t have read it; it was THAT annoying.  There’s just a huge difference between listening to someone speak who has a speech impediment and being forced to read it for a couple hundred pages.  While his long-winded and annoyingly superior speeches were just as frequent in Lion in the Valley, at least he could talk like an adult (and I do not at all mean to belittle or insult someone who has a speech impediment, so please don’t take this offensively) so that helped.

The second negative is almost a positive.  Basically, Amelia and her husband are VERY HAPPILY MARRIED if you get my drift, and while there is never anything even kind of explicit, she’s CONSTANTLY referring to them looking to go off by themselves or making sure they have a bedroom door that locks or whatever and it’s fine now and then, but, especially in Lion in the Valley, it started to almost feel like filler, just all these paragraphs saying basically the same thing.  I get the point.  You enjoy the intimacies of marriage.  A lot.  Can we move on now?

But still.  I enjoy the humor, and the setting is unique and interesting.  Overall, these books are sort of middle ground for me, a pretty solid 3/5.  Worth the read once, but probably not a collection I’m going to buy for my own shelves.  There are still several books to go, though, so we will see how they unwind.