Wednesday, 17 December 2014

The Mummy Case by Elizabeth Peters

*****

The third instalment of the Amelia Peabody series sees the Emersons off to Egypt for the 1894-95 season with their catastrophically precocious son, the cat Bastet and their servant, John.  Emerson is refused permission to dig at the pyramids of Dashoor and instead is given the pyramids of Mazghunah.  The family view these unprepossessing heaps of rubble in the middle of nowhere a great disappointment and expect a season of little challenge.  However, before setting off to their "pyramids", Amelia buys a scrap of coptic papyrus but witnesses something strange during her shopping trip in the souk.  Linking this with the knowledge that illegal antiquity dealing is on the increase, Amelia and Emerson return that night to see the shopkeeper, Abd el Atti, but find him murdered.  Amelia deduces there must be a Master Criminal at work, weaving his evil throughout Egypt and terrifying the dealers!
Once at the dig they have more immediate concerns.  There are missionaries and Emerson has little time for the disruption created by the maniacal Reverend Ezekiel Jones, his sister Charity and the overly handsome David Cabot.  With an obstructive Coptic priest and an allegedly cursed camp, sinister events escalate.  There's also the mystery of the Baroness's mummy case and her missing lion club to cope with too.  Circumstances lead to the Emersons being entrapped in a pyramid and a show down with the Master Criminal.

It's more of the usual stuff - a murder mystery romp through Egypt, which gives us the first glimpse of the Master Criminal.  He remains a shadowy figure who promises that they will not meet again, but it's clear that their paths will cross throughout the series.  Although the setting is less than promising and at times the book feels like (and as a veteran of the series - I know that's what's happening!) it is setting up characters and ideas for future stories, it does flow well and Amelia's insistence on her logical deductions pay off.
The humour created by Ramses is enjoyable, he manages to make a big impression and the family are now presented very strongly as a trio.  At first the lisp is irritating, although it is a constant reminder that despite his extensive vocabulary he is much younger than his thought processes imply, I do like him and it's good that he plays a large part in the ongoing events, particularly his sneaky infringement of de Morgan's work, and unusually for a child in a mystery novel he doesn't need to be "rescued" by his parents.

A light fun read which although not my favourite of the series, is well work a look!