The Hippopotamus Pool



by Elizabeth Peters

Published 1996

Frequently, when I am reading a series, I will publish one review for multiple books.  However, having just completed the book that follows The Hippopotamus Pool (Seeing a Large Cat), I feel that it begins a sort of new feel to the books (which I will discuss more whenever I get around to reviewing it – I always seem to be so behind!).  And so, The Hippopotamus Pool stands alone.

In this edition of the Emerson Family Adventures, Amelia and her husband make one of their greatest discoveries of all time – the tomb of an Egyptian queen.  A few years have passed since we last saw the family in The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog, and the whole family is back together again in Egypt, including the Emerson’s adopted daughter, Nefret.  The family is also joined by Emerson’s brother, Walter, and his wife, Evelyn.  Their marriage is in a bit of a rough spot following the death of their infant the year before, but Amelia is confident that some time back out on a dig will remind them of their love.

This was another fun, entertaining, lively mystery.  The narration is a delight, the dialogue frequently hilarious, and the characters are very real.  I am not usually much of a fan of first person narratives (hopefully I haven’t already gone into this while reviewing another of these books, lol), but Amelia reads like a very real individual.  Somewhere around this book or perhaps the one before, Peters begins to represent herself as merely the editor of Amelia’s journals and other documents (this ramps up in Seeing a Large Cat with the addition of “Manuscript H”), and it’s actually quite believable, as Amelia is delightfully realistic.  Peters, who did not originally intend to make Amelia’s character the star of a series (the first book has a very independent, here-we’ll -wrap-up-with-an-epilogue kind of feel), is able to use her role as “editor” to deal with any discrepancies with dates/ages (e.g. Amelia tells us that she is in her 30’s – she actually says the exact age but I can’t remember what – in the first book.  Well this gets awkward 15 books later) by blaming them on Amelia.

These books are a lot of fun, although at times the endings are almost too casual – I sometimes feel like various characters or plot lines have gotten kind of brushed off.  For instance, in this book the whole Walter-and-Evelyn-are-going-through-a-rough-time is a big deal at the beginning of the book, but the end it just kind of fizzles out as “Well of course they still love each other because Walter almost died and now Evelyn has been reminded of her love” except we don’t really see that per se in the characters’ actions.

Still, on the whole, I definitely recommend these as an excellent read.