Bree T's Reviews > The Mummy Case

The Mummy Case by Elizabeth Peters
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it was ok
bookshelves: crime, historical-fiction, library-reads, mystery, series

The Mummy Case is the third novel in the Amelia Peabody series and once again we open with the Emerson’s in England. They plan to return to Egypt and dig at the pyramids of Dahshoor, leaving behind their precocious son Ramses with Emerson’s brother Walter and his wife Evelyn. Evelyn has just suffered a ‘disappointment’ (miscarriage) and having Ramses comforts her. Plans are thwarted when Evelyn falls pregnant again and even Emerson and Amelia can see that it will be impossible for them to leave Ramses behind as he is far too much of a handful for someone in such a delicate condition. After some deliberation they decide that Ramses is at last old enough to come to Egypt, providing they take along one of their servants, John, to look after him.

Emerson is denied the dig he requests and is instead given the insulting location of Mazghunah, with periods in a state of disrepair and littered mostly with late-period graveyards, not at all Emerson’s expertise or preference. Because of his irascible temper, Emerson usually gets on the wrong side of those that give out the digging permits and this unattractive location is clearly destined to bring him down a peg or two. However before they can even arrive at their site, Amelia and Ramses visit an antiquities dealer in Cairo, and become caught up in a scam of illegal antiquities dealing. Amelia is looking for papyri for her brother-in-law Walter and just happens to enter the shop during the time of a suspicious conversation, which she interrupts. She manages to get the antiquities dealer to co-operate and tell her what is going on if she returns at midnight that night. When she and Emerson do return, they find the shop proprietor hanged.

Out at their digging site, Amelia is disturbed to recognise one of the workers that has been hired – she is convinced that she saw him in the antiquities shop and that he is involved somehow. She unfortunately involves Emerson straight away, who dismisses her suspicions as foolish and ends up alerting the worker to the fact that Amelia is curious about him. Emerson is determined for Amelia to forget her ‘silly detective ideas’ but too many strange things are going on at their new digging site for Amelia to really do this – someone attempts to steal something from Ramses’ room, a tourist docked nearby on one of the dahabeeyah’s has a Mummy stolen, switcheroo’s are played with that stolen mummy case and others Emerson has recovered from his dig. Add in two religious sects in the local village fighting to convert and claim the locals as their flock and Amelia has plenty to keep her occupied.

I really enjoyed the first two novels in this series but this one didn’t really do it for me and I think I can pin that down to two particular reasons. The first reason is that this one was incredibly slow to get going. I normally read an average paperback in a day or two but it took me at least a week with this one, I just could not stay interested. After some 200 pages, I have to admit I was still totally unsure of what the big mystery/drama was even going to be. The narrative is extremely dry, which hasn’t bothered me in the previous two because I think Amelia is a great teller of a story (the books are all written in first person) even though her brusque manner and dry tone could be trying to some. I enjoyed it up until now but this novel it just seemed like it was endless pages of Amelia talking but saying nothing at all. We rehashed how amazing and fabulous Emerson is and how he’s a fine speciman of a man who still can’t keep his hands off his wife (but don’t expect details, this is Victorian times, you won’t get any) and we talked an awful lot about how passionate they are about digging up the vast majority of Egypt and how Emerson is very bad-tempered and rude to people and then wonders why he doesn’t get good locations to dig up.

The other problem? Ramses. Their young child with several annoying speech impediments who speaks like a 35 year old PhD student in Egyptology and Archeology as well as Religious Theory and Just About Everything Else Under The Sun. I’m sorry I don’t care how intelligent some children are, Ramses is just completely unbelievable and so thoroughly annoying that I found myself skipping huge chunks every time he appeared and especially when he opened his mouth – which was far too often. Emerson dotes upon him and peers at him through rose coloured glasses and while Amelia seems thoroughly aware of how irritating Ramses actually is, cutting him off just about every time he takes a breath ready to deliver a lecture on well, anything, she doesn’t actually make much of an attempt to rein him in. He seems to outwit her at pretty much every turn with a “but Mama you didn’t tell me not to do this” which would really have me gagging him with duct tape if he were my child. And in the end of course Ramses saves the day despite the fact that he’s about six years old.

The mystery remained pretty much that to me – a mystery. I’m not even entirely sure what was supposed to be the point of whatever it was Amelia was investigating. It’s possible I just forgot it every time I had to read one of Ramses’ diatribes.
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Reading Progress

May 21, 2011 – Started Reading
May 21, 2011 – Shelved
May 21, 2011 –
page 7
May 28, 2011 –
page 239
May 28, 2011 – Finished Reading
June 18, 2011 – Shelved as: crime
June 18, 2011 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
June 18, 2011 – Shelved as: library-reads
June 18, 2011 – Shelved as: mystery
June 18, 2011 – Shelved as: series

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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message 1: by Holly (new)

Holly You have pretty much spoken what I thought of this book!

message 2: by Janice (new)

Janice Russell You nailed it on Ramses. I couldn't finish it and decided it was a waste of time.

Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) Yeah, and the kid is meant to be four years old. Going on forty-nine, I guess. I was smarter than the average bear as a kid too, but not a complete least until I was nine, anyway.

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