Book Review: Lion in the Valley by Elizabeth Peters

Posted December 8, 2021 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: Lion in the Valley by Elizabeth Peters

I received this book for free from my own shelves in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Lion in the Valley by Elizabeth Peters
Genres: Mystery, Amateur Sleuth, Historical
Published by Harper Collins on March 17, 2009
Pages: 384
Format: eBook
Source: my own shelves

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Also by this author: The Painted Queen, Crocodile on the Sandbank, The Curse of the Pharaohs, The Mummy Case, The Deeds of the Disturber, The Last Camel Died at Noon, The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog, The Hippopotamus Pool, Seeing a Large Cat, The Ape Who Guards the Balance, Guardian of the Horizon, A River in the Sky, He Shall Thunder in the Sky, The Falcon at the Portal

Fourth in the Amelia Peabody historical amateur sleuth mystery series and revolving around archeology in Egypt in 1895. The couple focus is on Amelia Peabody and her infamous husband, Professor Radcliffe Emerson.

My Take

I take issue with Peabody’s statement that “no one talks like that in the course of ordinary conversation” in that second paragraph. Peabody and Ramses certainly do.

That said, Peabody does crack me up as she waxes on of the “stifling, bat-infested corridors” and the “muddy, flooded burial chamber. Only she could see this as romantic, lol.

Single-mindedly Emerson focuses on his excavations while the paranoid Peabody worries about his behavior, even as she gratefully admires him, and does her best to manipulate him for what she wants.

Peters uses unreliable narrator in first person protagonist point-of-view from Peabody’s perspective (both she and Emerson prefer to use their last names, well, Emerson uses Peabody’s maiden name). Why unreliable narrator? Because Peabody is so focused on how right she is at all times. Part of the humor that continues to pop up is how Peabody changes the subject when she, ahem, realizes she was in the wrong or her favorite reply “just one of his little jokes”.

Peabody also waxes on about Emerson’s hands and their condition whether he’s working with his tools, weapons, or that delicacy of touch, ahem. Then she groans about Ramses, how she’s already used all her worry about his escapades — how he’d been in more scrapes by age five than most people encounter over a long lifetime and yet has confidence that he’ll survive undamaged and undaunted. Emerson is not happy that Ramses is likely to pop up anywhere, especially in the bedroom! That kid is my favorite character.

Peabody is quite the feminist, and so definitely born in the wrong time period. Not that she allows that to hold her back, of course.

Nemo is an interesting character with his laziness and drug addiction.

The infamous Sitt Hakim, the lady doctor who knows all, believes in a flannel belt to prevent catarrh. Just thinking of wearing something like that makes me feel overheated!

I do not understand why Ramses’ parents never allow him to finish. Yes, yes, I know it’s a device to create tension, but it reminds me too much of parents who don’t listen to their kids or dismiss them. Of course, a good bit of it is Ramses’ own fault for his tendency to flowery language with lots of polysyllables.

It’s a cozy, homey story of action, traps, chases, kidnappings, rescues, exorcisms, betrayals, and so much more that combines with laughter. I can’t help but love it, even if there isn’t much in the way of excavating the tombs.

“Another dead body. Every year it is the same.”

The Story

The 1895-96 season promises to be an exceptional one for Amelia Peabody, her dashing Egyptologist husband, Radcliffe Emerson, and their precocious (some might say rambunctious) eight-year-old son, Ramses. The long-denied permission to dig at the pyramids of Dahshoor has finally been granted, and the much-coveted burial chamber of the Black Pyramid is now theirs for the exploring.

Before the young family exchanges the relative comfort of Cairo for the more rudimentary quarters near the excavation site, they engage a young Englishman, Donald Fraser, as a tutor and companion for Ramses, and Amelia takes a wayward young woman, Enid Debenham, under her protective wing.

But there is danger and deception in the wind that blows across the hot Egyptian sands. A brazen kidnapping attempt, a gruesome murder, and an expedition subsequently cursed by misfortune and death — all serve to alert Amelia to the likely presence of her arch nemesis, the “Master Criminal”, notorious looter of the living and the dead. But it is far more than ill-gotten riches that motivate the man known as Sethos. The evil genius has a score to settle with the meddling lady archaeologist who has sworn to deliver him to justice . . . and he’s got her dead-on in his sights.

The Characters

Amelia Peabody and her archeologist husband, Professor Radcliffe Emerson, a.k.a. the Father of Curses who does love being dramatic, adore excavating tombs in Egypt. Eight-year-old Ramses, cold-bloodedly, terrifyingly sane, is always getting into trouble, including instigating a mutiny, lol. The cat Bastet is Ramses’ best friend and protector. In England, John (The Mummy Case, 3), their footman and previous companion in Egypt, has married.

Dashoor is . . .
. . . King Sneferu of the Fourth Dynasty’s tomb, a.k.a. the Bent Pyramid. The superstitious yet highly capable Abdullah ibn Hassan al Wahhab is the Emersons’ faithful reis and setting up housekeeping for the Emersons; Menyat Dashoor is the local village. Most of his excavation team are Abdullah’s sons, including Hassan, Selim who got married, Abdul who got divorced, and Yusuf whose wife had twins. Hamid is the cook.

The drug-addicted Nemo becomes their latest project. Mazeppa is the horse Ramses stole. Enid Marshall is/was part of Petrie’s staff . . . and staggering.

The Honorable Miss Debenham is an orphan who inherited her father, Baron Picadilly’s, fortune. And she’s quite the scandal! The Honorable Ronald Fraser, a second cousin, claims to be her fiancé. Donald Fraser is Ronald’s older brother.

Viscount Everly is an idiot. Caesar is his horse.

Egypt
M. de Morgan is the Director of the Antiquities Service and has given over the archeological site he worked last year to Emerson. There’s quite the scandal behind this “gift”. Howard Carter is still Professor Naville‘s assistant. Professor Petrie had been Carter’s old mentor. Petrie, who’ll be working Karnak this year, is also Emerson’s old rival. Quibell is Petrie’s assistant; Miss Pirie is grateful to Peabody for her help. Cyrus Vandergelt will be another neighbor. Sir Eldon Gorst is now the British Inspector Advisor?? Major Ramsay is the least of Gorst’s subordinates. And I do wish I could have read more of Ramsay’s “chat” with Peabody. Sir Evelyn Baring is the Consul General. Tobias Gregson is a private investigator. Sadly, Aziz from The Mummy Case has taken over his murdered father’s stock of antiquities.

Prince Kalenischeff is a scallywag who has been involved with the Master Criminal (The Mummy Case) and his current target is Miss Debenham. The Master Criminal himself is Sethos, and he allows no one to see him.

Shepheard’s Hotel is where anyone who is anyone stays. Mr Baehler is the manager and is in mortal terror of both Peabody and Emerson. The Black Pyramid is the tomb of Amenemhat of the Twelfth Dynasty. Sheikh El Beled, the mayor in Dronkeh, will receive a set to replace the one stolen in The Mummy Case. The previously kidnapped Father Todorus is the fortunate beneficiary of an apology (The Mummy Case). Mena House is a hotel and restaurant owned by Mr and Mrs Locke located at the foot of the Giza plateau. Mabel and Caleb T Clausheimer are some of the tourists at Giza. Sheikh Abu is another onlooker. Mrs Axhammer of Des Moines is a stubborn, pushy tourist. Jonah is her nephew. Kevin O’Connell is a reporter from the Daily Yell.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a soothing combination of blue and oranges, from the placid sky to the mounds of ruins and the temple in the background. A crouching lion statue of Set is placed on the sands in the foreground with a black river between the background and the foreground. At the very top is an info blurb in white. The author’s name is immediately below it in a black shadowed greenish yellow. Below that is another info blurb. Below the statue is the series info in black with the title immediately below it in a deep royal blue. At the very bottom of the cover is a testimonial in black.

The title refers to Sethos the First, described as a Lion in the Valley.

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