Friday, April 07, 2006

Lion in the Valley by Elizabeth Peters

The fourth book in the Amelia Peabody series following on from The Mummy Case, the Emersons have returned to Egypt for another fruitful season of archeology, or at least it would be if only Amelia could stop being drawn into mysteries, and from becoming involved in fixing other people's love lives!

The 1895-96 season promises to be an exceptional one for Amelia Peabody, her dashing Egyptologist husband Emerson, and their wild and precocious eight-year-old son Ramses. The much-coveted burial chamber of the Black Pyramid in Dahshoor is theirs for the digging. But there is a great evil in the wind that roils the hot sands sweeping through the bustling streets and marketplace of Cairo. The brazen moonlight abduction of Ramses -- and an expedition subsequently cursed by misfortune and death -- have alerted Amelia to the likely presence of her arch nemesis the Master Criminal, notorious looter of the living and the dead. But it is far more than ill-gotten riches that motivates the evil genius this time around. For now the most valuable and elusive prized of all is nearly in his grasp: the meddling lady archaeologist who has sworn to deliver him to justice . . . Amelia Peabody!

Within hours of arriving in Egypt, Amelia and Emerson are immersed in yet more trouble. They have gone for a romantic trip to the pyramids at night, along with many other tourists much to Emerson's disgust, but when Ramses is almost abducted, Amelia almost immediately suspects that the evil genius Master Criminal is back. Ramses is saved by an Englishman who appears to be wearing native clothes and making his way through life by begging and then spending his money on opium.

When a fellow guest at their hotel is murdered, with the finger of blame being laid at a woman who appears to have lost her judgement in relation to men, Amelia is sure that he is behind it. Emerson is frustrated by the fact that Amelia seems to see the evidence of the Master Criminal everywhere, and being determined that this season they will concentrate on archeology, they catch the next train out of Cairo. They had hired the young man who saved Ramses from abduction as his companion for the season, but when the aforementioned young woman makes her way to Amelia, it appears that the young man and the young woman have more of a connection than would seem immediately obvious.

There are a series of oddball events that occur, with visits from eccentric American tourists, titled gentlemen, yet another murder, this time someone close to Donald Fraser (Ramses saviour), eventually the identity of the killers becomes clear, but the motive is not so clear.

It turns out the nefarious Master Criminal is also a master of disguise, and manages to get quite close to Amelia more than once, but why is he so intent on doing so.

Instead of the usual competition between Amelia and Emerson to guess the identity of the murderer, this time Ramses joins in and gives his opinion, as if you could stop him, and it is left until near the end for the truth to come out, and the truth as to which of the Emerson's correctly guessed the true identity of the Master Criminal.

Ramses and the cat Bastet are their usual opinionated selves...yes, even the cat manages to communicate her opinions!! It will be interesting to see Ramses through puberty and into adulthood as I continue to read this series, for he is growing up. His parents even needed to give him the birds and the bees talk during this book...uncomfortable for every concerned.

A highly entertaining read. I'm off to the library to request the next one in the series!!

Rating 4.5/5

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