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Cannonball Read #40: A River in the Sky

04/26/2010

A River in the Skyis the latest installment in the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters. Set in Egypt in the early 20th century, these novels follow Amelia Peabody Emerson and family as they investigate tombs, archaelogical digs, and murders. This time round, however, the story is not set in Egypt,  but in Palestine.

Anyone who knows me knows that I prefer to read books in order. Yes that is very true.  It’s also a big pet peeve of mine to come across a great prospect of a novel on the new book shelves at the library, only to find that the library does not carry the previous books in the series! Anyway… I’ve read this series for a long time, and when I found A River in the Sky, I was disappointed to find that it does not advance the story of the Emersons, but rather fits in between two already published novels. Thankfully, that didn’t really bother me though. Since I’ve read past the events in River in the Sky, it was like visiting with old stories with friends – you know all of the involved parties, but not these specific tales.

The Emersons have been persuaded to follow an aspiring archaeologist, Major Morley, as he heads to Palestine in search of the Ark of the Covenant. The British War Office believes that Morley is really a German spy, and who better to suss out any archaeological wrongdoing, than the “Father of Curses,” Radcliffe Emerson. I must admit I had to google for “Radcliffe.” You see, the Emersons refer to each other by their last (or maiden) names. There’s also Walter “Ramses” Peabody Emerson, their son, and Nefret Emerson, their adopted daughter. Mrs. Emerson is also referred to as “Sitt Hakim,” or Lady Doctor – an appellation from a previous novel when she showed care for all of the Egyptians she encountered, from the poor needing treatment of eye diseases, to the donkeys they would ride into the desert.

This series is purported to have been delivered to the author as a series of diaries and manuscripts. The no nonsense narration of Amelia Peabody is quite entertaining, especially when she is discussing her husband. It’s sweet, how much they love each other, and it’s refreshing to have a loving couple at the forefront of these novels – the focus is on the story, and their strong family ties and love are the backdrop.

“Manuscript H” is the parallel story of Ramses, who is on a dig in Jerusalem when his parents arrive, and who gets roped into the story separately. These chapters told from his viewpoint give us other pieces of the puzzle, and are a good way to further the story.

I won’t give many more details, but this was a nice addition to the timeline. I do recommend this novel, but of course AFTER you’ve read the rest of the series.

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