The Serpent on the Crown
After nearly forty years of exploration in the Valley of the Kings,
the Emersons have returned for another season to dig for artifacts.
Intrepid archaeologists Amelia Peabody Emerson and her esteemed
husband, Emerson, aka Father of Curses, are rudely interrupted at a
family supper when a famous romance writer bursts onto their
terrace. Wielding a valuable golden statuette, Magda Petherick
staggers into the family bosom eagerly wishing to rid herself of
the accursed item that she is convinced was responsible for her
husband's untimely death.
Dr. Emerson's dubious fame for dispelling curses and Amelia's
reputation for her medical skills and for solving mysteries have
drawn Mrs. Petherick to the Emerson estate on the Nile. Soon after,
Mrs. Petherick vanishes. Has the curse struck again? Word spreads
of the infamous statuette's location, placing the entire Emerson
household --- which includes their son Ramses, his wife Nefret, and
four-year-old twins --- in jeopardy.
Ramses has matured into an expert hieroglyphics translator whose
two children are every bit as precocious as he was, much to his
mother's delight. His wife is trained as a physician, and both are
carrying on the family tradition.
Nefret's medical skills will be called upon as Amelia faces a
crisis that threatens her life. Is the statuette really cursed?
Will Emerson's exorcism drive away all, human or otherwise, who
seek to reclaim the treasure and return it to its rightful
THE SERPENT ON THE CROWN is #17 in this enormously popular mystery
series that spans the Victorian era through World War I. While the
series is not strictly a roman a clef, Elizabeth Peters
injects so many actual events, famous archaeological sites, ancient
rulers, and even real archaeologists into the story that they ring
with authenticity. I was surprised and pleased to find a former
neighbor, Ambrose Lansing, who was an Egyptologist with the New
York Metropolitan Museum in the early 20th century, making cameo
appearances in the last few books.
Peters holds a Ph.D. in Egyptology and recently published a coffee
table book, AMELIA PEABODY'S EGYPT: A Compendium, which is part
fiction and part history about the Valley of the Kings. Her
credentials on Egyptian exploration are impeccable, which makes
these cozy mysteries all the more entertaining and informative. For
new readers, the search for early editions should start with
CROCODILE ON THE SANDBANK where the young, single and adventurous
Amelia Peabody first alights in Egypt in the late 1800s. Longtime
fans have followed her romance with the dashing Emerson, birth of
the impossible son, Ramses, and cheered as Amelia triumphs over
mischief, evil and an insufferable husband to become one of mystery
fiction's most popular heroines.
In the last five books, Elizabeth Peters has invoked a third-person
narrative she calls "Manuscript H," which is an opportunity for her
grown son and his wife to make observations from a different point
of view. This device allows the reader to see the action outside of
the first-person voice, which helps to create a broader perspective
on the action.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on January 23, 2011