HE SHALL THUNDER IN THE SKY: AN AMELIA PEABODY MYSTERY by Elizabeth Peters
William Morrow, HarperCollins, 2000
Amelia Peabody is distressed by the outbreak of World War I and the problems it has caused to the British occupation of Egypt. Worse, her son Ramses has been targetted as a coward because of his refusal to join the war effort. Although Ramses favors Egyptian independence, he hates the idea of Ottoman Turk occupation more than continued English domination. He is working undercover to prevent an Egyptian uprising timed to coincide with the Turkish attack on the Suez Canal. If that wasn't bad enough, Ramses has woman problems. When he is injured by a gunshot from one of his fellow Egyptial revolutionaries, he has to pretend to be drunk, diminishing his romatic appeal.
As a heroine, Peabody has a tendency to go first and think later, but there is certainly nothing wrong with her though process either. Ramses is clearly caught in the middle--between Egypt and England, between gentleman and lover, between his love for his country(ies) and that for Nefret. Fortunately, like his mother, Ramses is always decisive. We get to see the results of his decisions rather than wallow in the decision-making process.
Elizabeth Peters (see other BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by this author) mixes history, archeology (when she isn't saving the British Empire, Peabody is excavating ancient Egyptian temples, examining pyramids, uncovering statues), a comedy of manners, social commentary, several romances (including a long-standing attraction between Peabody herself and an arch-criminal named Sethos) and a ripping adventure. The writing flip-flops between a first person point of view (Peabody), and a limited third party (generally Ramses), but retains a continuity of style.
The reader will overlook the minor logic problems (how, exactly, did Sethos get the statue into the tomb if it took 40 men to carry it, and why was Ramses supposed to be a coward if he was disguised as another man anyway) and get caught up in the adventure. Peters' style is light with an excellent balance between wry humor and suspense. Overall, this is a first-class mystery written by a master of the genre.
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