by Joan Leotta
Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of The Painted Queen, and a link to purchase it from Amazon, and an indie bookstore where a portion of the sale goes to help support KRL.
It’s the Egyptian 1912-1913 archeological season. Our encounter with Amelia and soon, The Painted Queen (Nefertiti, wife of Akhenaton) is exciting. Amelia is startled in her hotel bubble bath by a would–be assassin who is himself brought down by a dagger. The fast start is typical of the series, but what is not typical is that this book comes out after Peters’ death. It was finished by Peters’ friend and fellow mystery writer, Joan Hess.
The Amelia Peabody series has, for twenty books, blended with equal skill, mystery, the wonders of archeological discoveries in Egypt, and the saga of the Emerson family, including Amelia Peabody Emerson, hunky husband Emerson, their son, and others. Peters, aka Barbara Mertz, a University of Chicago trained archeologist. This book does not pick up the family story from the latest point (chronologically in the early 1920s). The Painted Queen looks back in Amelia Peabody’s lost notes to tell us about adventure on an expedition we readers have not yet explored with Amelia et al.
You can start the series with this book, but it would be much more rewarding to start at the beginning with Crocodile on the Sandbank and introduce yourself to Amelia Peabody Emerson as she wields her parasol to conquer criminals and meet and marry Radcliffe Emerson, heartthrob and archeologist supreme. Throughout that book and in subsequent volumes, dry humor, a push for woman’s rights, and clever plotting love keep readers fascinated. Her books are a combination of a family saga and mystery that involve strange foes and master criminals in the antiquity-thieving business. Along the way, Peters creates characters we love, and also cleverly and with humor, inserts her own theories on love, mothering, archeology, and world politics.
When this superbly talented author died, August 8, 2013, I mourned her, and I also mourned her characters, especially the intrepid Amelia and family. Just a few weeks ago, I discovered she had left a legacy to her Amelia Peabody fans! She had already started archeological research and plot development for this book before her illness at age 83. Peters’ daughter asked Joan Hess, a fellow mystery writer and close friend, to finish the book. For a variety of reasons the project took three years. Hess deserves an ‘A’ for effort. They had corresponded about this book. Hess picked up the research by corresponding with Peters’ Egyptian resource. Hess completely sublimated her own style in order to honor the quirks and beloved (to fans) qualities of Peter’s style as used in these novels.
The three hundred fifty-two pages flew by as they always do with these. I will reread it probably more than once. Although I think Hess did a masterful job, I was a bit disappointed with the insights of “manuscript H” (the inserted italic paragraphs where her son, nicknamed Ramses comments) and in the interaction between Amelia and hunky husband, Emerson. I think Hess decided to tread lightly in these areas rather than transgress stylistically. It was probably a good decision. Looking over comments on Amazon revealed that many who read the book are glad to have this book, but are also now willing to let the series come to an end to preserve the legacy of Peters.
I agree. Happy as I am for the great unexpected gift of The Painted Queen, I am willing to let Amelia and the other characters remain peacefully in the land of the dead, coming back to us in our dreams (perhaps in movies or television?), and by re-reading the twenty wonderful books in this series. Thank you, Joan Hess, for your hard work. Thank you dear, Elizabeth Peters, for this book and for all the others.
To enter to win a copy of The Painted Queen, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “queen,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 16, 2017. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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