Tuesday, February 2, 2016

What I Read in October 2015 Part IV

What I Read in October 2015 Part IV ...

Amelia Peabody Mysteries by Elizabeth Peters-- Historical Cozy Mysteries

The Hippopotamus Pool (Amelia Peabody #8)
The Hippopotamus Pool (Amelia Peabody, #8)
For those of you who haven't read any other books in this series, Amelia kindly recaps the events that have brought her to this point (though she seems to fudge her age a bit!). The Emerson-Peabodys (all 4 of them) are back in Egypt to make a study of the lost royal tomb. Emerson and Amelia are approached by a mysterious man believing in reincarnation and insisting Emerson is a reincarnated Egyptian priest. Before the man can name his true purpose, he falls into a fit. By the time help arrives, Emerson is on the floor with a knock to the head and the man has disappeared. Their bad luck continues when they surprise a gang of thieves (or two) in the tomb. Emerson is certain the trail will lead him straight to the leading manufacturer of faked antiquities and Emerson is MAD. The Father of Curses and Sitt Hakim with her magic parasol rescue David, a young apprentice forger and are prepared to battle the bad guys. However, when the villains target Ramses and Nefret, the Emerson-Peabodys go on the war path. Meanwhile, more help his needed so they send for Evelyn and Walter, who are having a tough time dealing with the loss of their youngest child. They also hire Gertrude Marmaduke, an English spinster, as governess for Ramses and Nefret. Nefret is on the cusp of womanhood, dreaming of romance and Amelia is not prepared for courting just yet! The events that then transpire show the Emerson-Peabodys they are up against a ruthless villain and a network of criminals who will stop at nothing to get their treasure. Amelia sees strange coincidences between the fairy tale she is translating and real life, much as she did last winter. She and Emerson must join forces with their allies to keep the antiquities away from the villains and protect their family.

This plot moves slllloooowwwwly. It lacks the hook to bring the reader in like the last two did. 3/4 of the book is spent on mostly nothing important except excavating, worrying about the teenagers, and trying to put clues together. There isn't any real action until I was ready to shut down the computer and go to bed. Then I couldn't put it down. The problems seem to be solved a little too neatly. Old friends and old enemies return and there's also a new enemy who annoyed my greatly by being a stereotype. WHY does the Italian guy have to be the crime boss? There's a little too much teenage drama and siblings rivalry for my taste. Been there. Done that. Over it. I was surprised by the revelations at the end and like Amelia, I was a little bit impressed. There was also a great deal of confusing explanation of Egyptian culture I didn't really care about. It was forced into the story rather than being a part of the story.

I did love the characters in this story. Amelia is a lot more conventional than she realizes and she sometimes annoys me with her high moral attitude. Emerson is the same old Father of Curses as ever. He's more ignorant of social stuff and doesn't see what's happening with anything other than his tomb. I liked seeing Walter and Evelyn again in their element. Walter is WAY more conventional than Emerson and I love how Emerson finally notices and sets his brother straight on how to handle strong-minded women. Evelyn's character growth is spectacular. She is so sweet and loving but she also admires Amelia and is as strong and brave as her friend. I felt so sad for her and I hope she and Walter can work things out so they can have their domestic happiness and the work they love so much. Ramses is starting to learn to talk like a young gentleman and I kind of miss his long-winded speeches. They added some humor to the plot. I didn't like his teenage enthrallment with Nefret. I didn't like Nefret at first for acting like a typical teenage girl but she won my admiration by the end. I knew she would.

We also become reacquainted with Cyrus Vandergelt, who is a little too stereotypical "by golly!" Western for me but I found him very nice. I like Kevin O'Connell too for all his sensational stories. I think he does care for Amelia and pushes Emerson's buttons on purpose but would never print anything that would actually really hurt the Emerson-Peabodys. There's another old character who is quite remarkable in audacity and like Amelia I was torn between admiration and contempt.

The new characters include Gertrude Marmaduke, a typical British spinster of a certain age - or is she? I didn't trust her. Her information was inconsistent and she was never where she was supposed to be. She showed too much interest in Nefret and not enough in Emerson's work. I also mistrusted Sir Edward for the same reasons Amelia did. Emerson liked him though so I was confused about what to think. David, a young Arab boy, was also a bit of a mystery. I liked him because Ramses trusted him and because the kid had a tough life.

I have to take a break from this series until I have more free time to read them this winter. I'd like to continue but I don't need to know what happens next RIGHT NOW.

Seeing a Large Cat (An Amelia Peabody Mystery, #9)
Seeing a Large Cat  (Amelia Peabody #9)

It's winter 1903 and the Emerson Peabodys are back in Egypt for the season. Ramses, now 16, spent the summer with sheikh Mohammad and came back a man! His new adult looks attract the attention of a young American lady in need of protection from a villain who wants to harm her father. Emerson has received a mysterious warning not to enter tomb 20A in the Valley of the Kings but Amelia is as curious as ever. They find themselves embroiled in the most bizarre mystery of their careers when they discover a very shocking secret in a tomb. Amelia also gets involved with the bogus practice of spiritualism at the request of an old friend. She sees a way to play matchmaker once again.

This was not the best story in the series. Heavy on mystery light on history/archaeology/Egyptology. It's also light on humor. At the very end there's a foreshadowing of WWI - 11 years in the future. Amelia also didn't get to wield her parasol as often as I would have liked. There's very little danger to the family until the very end and I'm so over teenage drama and the introduction of a southern belle annoyed the heck out of me. The plot just didn't interest me as much as some of the others - however - I did stay up very late reading 60% of the book in one night because it got interesting just as I was about to shut off the computer! One thing I did like was the unconventional way of telling the story. The "editor" notes that some volumes of the Emerson journals have been lost but fragments of another manuscript have been found. This Fragment H may have been written by Ramses in the third-person or by Nefret or even David. The readers gets the whole story with the third-person teenage story.

Way back when Ramses was 5 I found him annoying but I miss his youthful antics. They added some much-needed humor to the plot. I do not like this new mature Ramses. He's noble and brave but not as foolhardy as his parents. He grew up with Arabs and knows how to protect himself. He also has Nefret fussing over him like a mother hen and David to watch his back. Nefret is just like Amelia now! She cares little for what others think, less than what Amelia would prefer and Amelia has her hands full watching over the girl. I like David the best of the three teens. He's the strong, silent type and unlike the other two, he does care what others think of him and he's more cautious about rushing into danger. Amelia is not as annoying as she has been on occasion when dealing with the locals. She doesn't preach her Victorian morality on anyone this time. Emerson isn't quite as voluble this time around but he's as dedicated to his studies as ever and the battle of the sexes is waged again with Abdullah in the middle.

Other returning characters are Enid and Donald Fraser. I could have done without their marital drama. I laughed a bit at Amelia's very MODERN (unVictorian) advice for them. Their plot was a little out of place in the story and didn't really need to be set in Egypt or included in this novel.

New characters here include Dolly Bellingham, a spoiled southern belle stereotype who latches on to Ramses like a leech. I did not like her at all. She was so incredibly irritating - a real piece of work. She needs a firm hand to keep her in line. I don't think she's as dumb as she appears. Her father, Col. Bellingham, is a creepy old guy. For some pointless reason he's a veteran of the American Civil War but it doesn't shape his character. He could be any old, rich guy with a spoiled daughter from anywhere. Mrs. Jones is a great character. I admire her and liked her very much once we got to know her.

I'm not interested in reading more right now, especially with the foreshadowing of WWI but maybe this winter I will read more of the series.

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