By 1922, almost every Egyptologist despairs of finding another royal tomb—except for Radcliffe Emerson, who doesn’t have the rights to dig where he suspects Tutankhamen lies.
It’s Howard Carter, subsidized by Lord Carnarvon, who gets the first glimpse of the royal burial chamber. The tomb’s curse seems to be dogging the Emerson household, maybe because Emerson, his parasol-wielding wife Amelia Peabody, son Ramses, daughter-in-law Nefret, grandkiddies and assorted hangers-on have stealthily entered the tomb at night for a quick peek. Or maybe the Emerson woes have been caused by his brother Sethos, late of the British Secret Service, who attracts trouble the way the Nile attracts flies. Soon Sethos’s estranged wife Margaret is kidnapped, an aged retainer is waylaid, the family is followed in and out of the souks and Carter and Carnarvon cut them dead at every opportunity. Is the mummy’s curse active? Are nationalists rising against the Brits? Whatever the cause, Christmas must be celebrated, tea must be enjoyed on the veranda, whiskey and soda must be imbibed, several romances must be stage-managed by Amelia and all Tutankhamen’s treasures must be oohed and aahed over as they are removed from his tomb.
The political machinations are less interesting than the competition between the archaeologists and the Emerson family. As usual, though, Peters (The Serpent on the Crown, 2005, etc.) has great fun dressing her characters up in Victorian finery and outpost-of-the-empire attitudes.