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The Serpent on the Crown
Amelia Peabody mystery, No. 17

By Elizabeth Peters

      The Serpent on the Crown is the 17th Amelia Peabody novel. This series has been a joy to read and watch in its evolution from hilarity in The Crocodile on the Sandbank through suspense in He Shall Thunder in the Sky to the settling down of old friends and family in the current work. Egyptology and familial affection is the thread that ties the group together and keeps them coming back to their beloved Valley.

     This book has all of the expected family traits as well as a few surprises. We are treated to an exorcism by the Father of Curses; always a delight to the natives as well as the reader. There is a corpse in the ivy, somebody tries to kill Ramses, Amelia carries her small pistol in her infamous belt of accoutrements, Sethos fights with Emerson, and Nefret gets to cut up a dead body. The book can be characterized in a conversation that "the boys" have with Howard Carter:

"We've been hearing some tall tales about you people," Carter began. "Murder, robbery, assault--"

"Same old thing," David said.

Carter gave a bark of laughter. "Quite. Quite..."

      But of course that is not the whole story as there are always secrets to be withheld from outsiders. The plot is a wind-down from previous adventures, as is befitting the age of the characters; Amelia and Emerson are in their seventies, the children in their thirties. Abdullah's visitation is darker and he alludes to the end of an age. The much unexpected plot twist at the end, while thrilling to the family, alerts "Ameli-ologists" to a finality that could be coming in book 18.

      The beauty of it is that these books are entertaining. Even if you haven't read the previous 16 you can still enjoy this one.

The Book

William Morrow / HarperCollins
April 1, 2005
Historical Mystery
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The Reviewer

Beth McKenzie
Reviewed 2005
© 2005