Long ago, when I was a young mystery reader, Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series was one of my favorites. For the uninitiated, the late Barbara Mertz was a brilliant academic (she had a PhD in Egyptology) who turned to writing historical mysteries set in Egypt under a pen name. Intrepid Amelia and her husband, Emerson, made archaeological discoveries and solved crimes, sometimes rubbing elbows with real-life figures along the way.
I kept up with the series until sometime in the early 2000s, when I sort of lost track. My book group (which, as I’ve mentioned, is now meeting online) read the fifth novel in the series, The Deeds of the Disturber, this week. I own a first edition hardcover, signed by the author, but in one of those dismaying “Hey, you’re OLD now” reminders, the print was too small for me to comfortably read; I wound up downloading it onto my Kindle, where I can customize the font size to accommodate my aging eyes.
Deeds is the only book in the series that takes place in Amelia’s native England (the rest are set in Egypt). She, her husband and their annoyingly precocious son, Ramses, return home for the summer, where they get involved in investigating the murder of a nightwatchman at the British Museum, attributed to a mummy’s curse. At a lecture by E.A. Wallis Budge (one of those real-life people I mentioned above), a man dressed in robes and a mask interrupts the Egyptologist’s talk, uttering threats before mysteriously disappearing. More deaths follow, and Amelia fears her husband is the killer’s next target.
Reading this book was sort of like catching up with an old friend I hadn’t seen in a really long time, and discovering we no longer have much in common. The things I remembered about the series—hyperverbal Ramses, hot-headed Emerson, the eye-rollingly frequent references to Amelia and her spouse’s extremely active love life—are there in force; just like last week’s The Stranger Diaries, it took me a full week to get through this book. Unlike, say, How the Light Gets In, I found it pretty easy to put down, and I was never super-eager to pick it back up. I’m more distracted these days and unless something really hooks me, it’s often a struggle to finish what I’m reading. I have a couple more book club selections to read, but then I have a few titles on the TBR pile that I’m super-eager to get to, like Jennifer Weiner’s Big Summer and Cara Black’s Three Hours in Paris. We’ll see if anything is able to distract my anxious brain.