Elizabeth Peters's The Serpent on the Crown
is the penultimate book in the Emerson-Peabody saga. When Peters
conceived this series, she had a specific timeline in mind. The books
start in 1884 when Amelia Peabody meets her Radcliffe Emerson in the
Egyptian desert. The series ends in 1923, the year of a significant
archaeological find in the Valley of the Kings.
The Serpent of the Crown is the first of two books set in 1922-1923. Although there is certainly action and mystery in this installment, it was clearly intended as a transition novel to the series finale. The convergence of real people in the history of Egyptian archaeology with Peters's fictional characters set the stage for the historical discoveries to come.
- What happens? A grieving widow of an antiquities collector brings the Emersons a stunning golden statue of an Egyptian king. She claims it carries evil and wants Emerson, known as the Father of Curses, to exorcise it. The main plot of The Serpent on the Crown surrounds this statue, which is the cause of deaths and robbery as well as physical injuries to the Emersons. Meanwhile, the family and their colleagues are on the hunt to figure out the provenience and significance of the statue and the possible location of the tomb from which it was taken.
- Growth of characters: Although Amelia still has all her spunk, she is beginning to show her age, no matter how hard she tries to hide it. Ramses in particular finds ways to save her pride when they're out gallivanting in the desert heat. In addition, she and (reluctantly) Emerson are beginning to accept that their children are adults with families and interests of their own; the couple struggles with the bitter sweetness of letting Ramses, Nefret, and David pursue their separate paths.
- A note on the author: Because Elizabeth Peters (the pen name of Barbara Mertz) herself had a PhD in Egyptology the details of the Emersons' archaeological work are spot-on. I love the combination of her brilliant storytelling mixed with the authenticity of her descriptions of the artifacts, the environment, and the scholarly theories that color the series.
- The audiobook: The unabridged audiobook (Harper Audio, 12 hr, 8 min) is read, as is the entire series, by Barbara Rosenblat. She is truly amazing in these books, deftly and skillfully switching among the many accents, males and female, and young and old with nary one falter.
Source: Bought (see review policy)
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