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    Review of THE SERPENT ON THE CROWN by Elizabeth Peters


    William Morrow, March 2005

    World War I is over, Egypt seethes with revolution, and the great Egyptologists are busy at work, stuck in the middle of the transformation between pure treasure-finders and serious archeologists. The now-aging Amelia Peabody and her family are confronted with a mysterious woman who insists that her husband was killed by a curse--a curse attached to a mysterious gold statue. Peabody, her husband Emerson, and her extended clan know plenty about curses, but something about this curse seems faked--perhaps to draw attention to the widow--a famous author. Still, there's no doubting the authenticity of the statue. More to the point, the statue seems connected to that mysterious period in Egyptian history when the ancient religion underwent a revolution.

    While Emerson attempts to pursue multiple digs, partially motivated by a wish to find the source of the beautiful statue, his son, Ramses, works with ancient papyrus. Peabody tries to help everyone, at the same time looking to explore the mystery of the author--who suddenly vanishes. And, as Peabody's long-dead dream-advisor reminds her, a season in Egypt is never complete without at least one body--sure enough, a body shows up.

    Author Elizabeth Peters (see more reviews of novels by Peters) writes evocatively of the interwar period. World War I is a recent memory and its damage is still felt by many of its survivors. Modern grave looters and treasure finders are everywhere, even among respected archeologists. The role of women is changing, but Victorian morals and definitions of 'society' are still strong and only slowly fading.

    THE SERPENT ON THE CROWN is an entertaining and funny mystery, especially for fans of the Elizabeth Peters series. Peters tones down the frequent admiration of Emerson's broad chest (although giving us enough of it to recognize Peabody's voice) and concentrates on family, Egypt, and mystery. I greatly prefer the Amelia Peabody mysteries that deal directly with archeology and Egypt rather than ranging abroad, and SERPENT fits this mold. SERPENT might not be the best book as an introduction to the Emerson/Peabody adventure, but it's a welcome addition to the family.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 4/06/05

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