The 19th installment of the adventures of an archaeological family facing a vendetta as they chase a real-life artifact.
Life is never dull for Amelia Peabody in her marriage to professor Radcliffe Emerson, the greatest Egyptologist of the 19th century—and now the 20th. Even a bubble bath in Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo is anything but restful when a man bursts in on Amelia, utters “You.…Murder!,” and falls dead with a knife in his back. When Emerson rushes to his wife and searches the corpse’s pocket, he finds a card with the name “Judas” written on it. Emerson also trips over a small carved wooden head of Akhenaton, the Heretic Pharaoh, whose capital city, Tell el-Amarna, is the next stop but one on the Emersons’ itinerary. Reunited there with their son, Ramses, they learn that a man had tried to kill him, too, and that another target on Judas’ hit list is the chief excavator of the Amarna site, Herr Morgenstern, who’s been behaving oddly and taken himself off to Cairo. With the discovery and disappearance of a beautiful painted carving of Nefertiti comes the realization that the Emersons’ foster daughter’s late husband’s five half brothers have sworn vengeance on her adoptive family. One brother was the Judas who was stabbed in the back; Guy (for Fawkes) dies in his attempt to blow up the Emersons; Cromwell’s namesake is decapitated when he tries to kill Ramses. Subsequent murders, abductions, flash floods, camel-back races, and interventions by a supposed nemesis alternate with frequent breaks for tea, sandwiches, and whiskey as the Emersons wonder what fate’s in store for them and their remaining assassins, Absalom and Flitworthy.
Hess (Pride vs. Prejudice, 2015, etc.) undoubtedly had a daunting task in completing the final manuscript of the late Egyptologist Peters (A River in the Sky, 2010, etc.). Fans will cherish the legacy; newcomers will be forgiven for fidgeting through the busy plot and arch humor.