Tomb of the Golden Bird By Elizabeth Peters
If I ask a customer if they have read the Amelia Peabody mysteries, and they answer “no” - I think, “how lucky you are - you can start now and read them all one after the other”. Amelia Peabody is our heroine - an archaeologist, a Victorian feminist, and the wife of the eminent Egyptologist Radcliffe Emerson. Amelia describes her husband as “one of the finest-looking men I have ever beheld: raven locks and eyes penetrating sapphirine blue. A form as impressive as it had been when I first met him, he stood a head taller than those around him and his booming voice was audible some distance away”.
I picture the cover of a “bodice ripper”.
He does occasionally carry Amelia off in his arms. Peabody herself is dark haired, with a pleasing feminine figure and ready for anything, any time. She dresses in clothing suitable for her way of life when working, and in a scarlet gown when the occasion is right. She does not suffer fools. She is always in complete control of her family and her surroundings - only slowed down occasionally by a murder or kidnapping, usually both.
Peabody and Emerson have been digging in Egypt for the past thirty or forty years - since before the turn of the last century. It is now 1922 and the Emerson's are in the Valley of the Kings. They are accompanied by their adult son, Ramses, his wife and children, and a full cast of colorful characters.
This is the season in which Howard Carter discovers the tomb of Tutankhamen. We, of course, know the splendor of this discovery and the controversy surrounding the deaths of the archaeologists who first discovered the tomb. The archaeology in these books is real - the tombs and the history of the ancient Egyptians is all fact - but the exploits of the family are wonderful fiction.
There are always murders. There are always villains after at least one of the Emerson's. The Emerson's are always true and loyal.
They only lie when absolutely necessary. They take tea on the terrace of Shepheard's Hotel in Cairo, commenting caustically about the tourists.
They belong in Egypt and the Egyptians know it. They are accepted by the villagers and have a certain reputation - Emerson as the “Father of Curses” and Peabody for helping the injured and for somehow knowing all that is going on when problems arise - as they always do.
There is a new volume in this series every year or two, and it is like being given a big box of chocolates, or even better, to sit down with the new Amelia Peabody mystery and read the day away.