THE FALCON AT THE
PORTAL by Elizabeth Peters
This is the latest Amelia Peabody mystery to become available in paperback and it takes us forward to 1911. The Peabodys are going to Egypt not only for their annual dig but for another occasion too; the marriage of Amelia’s niece Lia to David. But David soon finds himself in trouble for selling fake Egyptian artefacts and then a body is found at the bottom of their newly-dug excavation shaft. Then, as if things cannot get any worse has Ramses really fathered a child with a local prostitute?
Elizabeth Peters’ earlier books were full of action, humor and adventure delivered at a fast pace but sometimes this was at the expense of character development. Now her later ones have slowed the pace down and she concentrates far more on the characters and their relationships. They still have adventures of course but there is time taken as well to delineate their daily lives and the story is told from more than one viewpoint a la Wilkie Collins, a device that works well. There are some fine descriptions of Egypt in the early 20th century and as usual plenty of wit but more serious and even tragic moments and hints at darker times to come in the next book He Shall Thunder in the Sky. At times I yearned for the earlier tales that were replete with master criminals, sinister secrets and a sense of heightened enthusiasm but if she can combine the two then this will be a feat indeed and she is certainly getting there. If she has stayed with the earlier tone then I believe that her books might have become a trifle stale and formulaic but she is showing that her characters can grow up, change and move on.
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