Thursday, August 3, 2017
A Final Egyptian Excavation with the Peabody/Emerson Clan
THE PAINTED QUEEN (Amelia Peabody #20)
Elizabeth Peters, Joan Hess
Harper Audio, Narrated by Barbara Rosenblat
July 25, 2017
I was saddened by the death of Elizabeth Peters (Barbara Mertz), not only as it signaled the end of the Amelia Peabody series, but all the many books written in her various pen names. She was an author uniquely beloved by her readers and also her many friends. One of the closest of her friends, Joan Hess, undertook the daunting task of producing a final novel taken from Peters' notes at the request of the family. The Painted Queen is the product of three years of labor by Hess in which she put her own career largely on hold. I think that even with some problems in timelines and characterization, the book is a success. I can't imagine how difficult it would be to try to assume another writer's voice.
The Painted Queen takes place during the 1912 excavation season, just after the Emerson's adoptive daughter Nefret's disastrous marriage and widowhood. Nefret and Ramses, the Emerson's son, are estranged over that episode and tensions are running high. A bust of Nefertiti has vanished, along with the head excavator, and forgeries are popping up all over Cairo. To add to the mix, the family of Nefret's dead husband, the Godwins, are trying to take revenge by assassinating Amelia and Rameses. Never mind that he brought his death on himself. There are a number of them, five of the six Godwin sons, but they are no match for the redoubtable Amelia and Emerson. All comes right in the end, with chases, narrow escapes, and suspense to the last page. Some of the characterizations, especially those of our old Egyptian friends seem subtly off, and Hess's humor is not quite like Peters. Still, I was glad to have this one last adventure with old friends.