More audiobooks, this time the first four Amelia Peabody novels, written by Elizabeth Peters and read by Barbara Rosenblat.
First, let me say that Rosenblat is a superb narrator, with amazing flexibility and precision (though maybe a hair too much drama). These have also been recorded by Susan O'Malley, but I read one review that said she doesn't use a British accent for Amelia, which is just wrong. If you're going to listen to these on audiobook, I highly recommend the Rosenblat recordings.
The first Amelia Peabody novel is Crocodile on the Sandbank, which I found charming. Like the rest of the ones I've experienced to date, it's in first-person retrospective, framed as journals written after events have concluded. (I understand that some of the more recent ones depart from this format.) I knew I would like Amelia when, after rescuing a young woman in 1884 Rome and hearing how she was seduced and betrayed, the first thing she asked was what sex was like. (At the time, Amelia was a spinster who neither expected nor desired marriage.) Amelia and Evelyn, the young woman, go off to Egypt and end up on an archaeological dig, where they find adventure, love, and in Amelia's case, a lasting passion for "Egyptology."
The plot of this book is so slight as to be transparent, and I found the ending a touch unjust. But I enjoyed the characters and the Egyptology enough to get the second one right away.
When The Curse of the Pharoahs opens, Amelia and her husband Emerson are in England going slowly mad. Emerson refuses to be parted from their son Ramses (a nickname) to go dig in Egypt, but doesn't think Ramses's health is strong enough to take him with them. Emerson is teaching, and Amelia is helping with his academic work, but they are really very bored. And their son is an absolute terror. Enter a distressed widow, begging Emerson to take over the dig that her possibly-murdered husband ran; of course they take it (leaving Ramses with his aunt and uncle). I enjoyed this section for its non-typical, and very in-character, portrait of Amelia as a mother, but a little of Ramses goes a long way. I was glad to get away from him too, and I don't even live with him.
The actual plot moves a little slowly, particularly at the beginning, but has a colorful cast of characters and some more good Egyptology (including the strong suggestion that they were this close to discovering King Tut's tomb thirty years early). And I enjoyed seeing Amelia forced to acknowledge an error, even a relatively minor one—Amelia is very prone to declaring how sensible and perceptive and stout-hearted she is, and it gave me hope that the author saw her more clearly than that.
In the third book, The Mummy Case, I continued to get progressively more irritated at Amelia's pronouncements about herself, as well as her tendency to not so much jump to conclusions as to fling herself at them headlong. I was also irritated that the vital clue to the mystery is a piece of Egyptology that I didn't already know and wasn't told by the book. Finally, Ramses went on the dig with them, and long-winded speeches in piping child voices are much easier to take in text than aloud. I was strongly considering taking a break from these at this point, but I saw that the fourth appeared to be closely linked, and then the fifth was back in Britain. I decided to stick it out for one more.
This was a mistake. I stopped listening to Lion in the Valley less than halfway through because Amelia was driving me nuts. For one thing, she was being more bossy than usual toward the young people she accumulates each book. For anther, a master criminal (Sethos) first appeared in the third book, and Amelia's continuing obsession with this individual rather grates. When I found myself greeting her orations regarding "that genius of crime" or "the subtle machinations of that great criminal brain" with "oh be quiet!", I decided that for the sake of my blood pressure it was time to stop listening and just skim the text to see what happened.
It's a good thing I did. The ending is on crack. I was almost literally reading with my head averted because it was so very embarrassing.
Can anyone tell me which of the remaining books contain the Sethos plot, so I can avoid them? I would like to see if Ramses becomes human, and if they ever get any really good archaeological discoveries, but I just cannot deal with Sethos, even skimmed at speed.
#2 :: Kate wrote on March 13, 2005 at 9:51 AM:
#4 :: Kate wrote on March 13, 2005 at 12:03 PM:
#6 :: Kate wrote on March 13, 2005 at 9:03 PM:
#7 :: Heather Blatt wrote on March 15, 2005 at 9:49 PM:
#8 :: lolita wrote on October 7, 2008 at 1:09 PM:
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