Amelia Peabody Emerson returns for her second adventure in Egypt in Elizabeth Peters’s Curse of the Pharaohs. Following the news of archaeology in the country they love, Amelia and Radcliffe Emerson avidly note the start of an excavation at a newly discovered tomb by Sir Henry Baskerville, along with the proclamation of a curse by local religious leaders against the scientists, Baskerville in particular, for disturbing the tomb of the long-dead. When Baskerville suddenly dies, with no evidence as to the cause, and his chief assistant missing, the locals think this proof of the curse, while the British question the assistant’s involvement in what they increasingly begin to consider a murder.
All this seems academic to the Emersons, who feel they can’t return to Egypt for a while because they have a young son, until their door bursts open to admit Lady Baskerville, who asks Emerson to take over the dig, a position provided for in Sir Henry’s will. Against Lady Baskerville’s evident desire, Emerson refuses to consider taking the position without his partner in both archaeology and life being by his side. Thus soon Amelia finds herself back in Egypt, dealing with a group of natives whose superstition not only prevents them from being willing to work but also makes them try to discourage others from their work. But a series of near-fatal incidents, especially geared towards Emerson, the new leader of the expedition, leads to a lot of added tension.
The expatriate community is made up of some memorable characters. The newly widowed Lady Baskerville shows up and, as seen through the critical eyes of the no-nonsense Amelia Peabody Emerson, plays up to all the men in the area to gain attention. Mary, a young British woman who lives in Egypt, gets involved making drawings of everything they find during the dig, bearing the cross of having an odious mother without any consideration for how ill-behaved she acts among everything. This bizarre woman keeps making passes at Emerson, who is rarely out of his element but doesn’t know how to cope with this woman, who insists that they were lovers in a past life and together murdered her husband! Despite her disgusting mother, Mary is surrounded by a group of admirers, all desperately trying to beat out the others for her attention.
The Curse of the Pharaohs continues in developing the strong female character of Amelia Peabody Emerson, whose hot-blooded relationship with her husband, both in their banter and their strong physical attraction to each other, is a lot of fun to watch. The details of life on a 19th century Egyptian dig give much life to this book. It comes as no surprise that the author, whose real name was Barbara Mertz, held a PhD in Egyptology. She brought the scholarly field of archaeology to life in this series.
This book can be found on Audible, narrated by Susan O’Malley, whose voicing of this book really helped to bring it to life.
The Curse of the Pharaohs is a book that I think the FangirlNation audience will really enjoy, with its delightfully strong female narrator. Further, I think that those who may not normally care for mystery books per se will still appreciate all the elements of the Egyptian dig and the fear of the curse that motivates many of the characters. I give this book four stars.
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