Reviewed by Rachel Hyde, MyShelf.Com
UK Copy Only
This latest novel by bestselling writer Barbara Erskine blends history with the present as usual but with a new twist - this time Egypt is the setting and the scenes shift like the sands between ancient, Victorian and modern. Anna Fox's divorce has left her well off and free from being under the thumb of her domineering husband. Following the advice of a favorite great-aunt she decides to follow in her great grandmother's footsteps and visit Egypt.
Louisa was a well-known artist in the mid 19th century and Anna carries two of her possessions on holiday with her - an ancient scent bottle and Louisa' s diary. Soon it is evident that all is not well aboard the White Egret as two men seem desperate to get their hands on these items (as well as on her person) and another two men - priests from the time of Tutankhamun - seem to want the same thing and have supernatural ways of getting it.
Erskine's backgrounds have the ring of authenticity and experience about them in this suspenseful novel. Modern Egypt with its multitude of tourists is contrasted effectively with Louisa's experiences in the 1860s when it was still possible to find silence and tours were more tailor-made. The fellow holidaymakers aboard the White Egret rub each other up the wrong way in the manner of those forced to spend too much time with each other, a circumstance which adds to the tension as the ghosts move in to claim their magic bottle. Egypt in all its glory is the star of this story and how it endures - Louisa has her fling with a lover, fights off the attentions of a villain and contends with ghosts and so does her modern counterpart Annawhile the monuments look on and the sand drifts endlessly to obscure or reveal. The pace flagged a little at times but on the whole the mixture of periods, contrasts and similarities, supernatural and human villainies and frailties goes down as smoothly as a gliding sand dune. If you like Elizabeth Peters you will certainly enjoy this.
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