Book Review: The Deeds of the Disturber by Elizabeth Peters

Posted January 7, 2022 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: The Deeds of the Disturber 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.

The Deeds of the Disturber by Elizabeth Peters
Genres: Mystery, Amateur Sleuth, Historical
Published by Mysterious Press on October 31, 2017
Pages: 483
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, Lion in the Valley, 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

Fifth in the Amelia Peabody historical mystery series featuring an amateur sleuth and revolving around a feminist archeologist at the turn of the twentieth century, as she and her studly husband solve this case of the cursed mummy. In London!

My Take

I gotta give Peabody credit for the strength of her views and her willingness to support them. We need more people like her. in that respect. Emerson frequently repeats how impossible it is to prevent Peabody from rushing into danger. That he tries and tries, but never succeeds.

Still, Peabody does manage her own hypocrisies as she bemoans how the English mistreat the Egyptians, and yet she prides herself in being a member of a superior nationality. She does treat people as equals, until a situation arises when she doesn’t. Of course, she never meddles either, ROFLMAO. Peters does manage to poke fun at the upper class’s stiff upper lip with regards to staff as well as Emerson’s personality. Lol, it seems the servants appreciate Emerson while those of his own class do not.

A rather annoying device (I know, it helps to create that tension, but it still annoys) Peters employs is the know-it-all-mama, as Peabody too frequently refuses to allow Ramses to finish a sentence. Admittedly, Ramses has brought it on himself with his loquaciousness. Of course, since Peabody knows all (and better), she doesn’t let others finish their comments either. That’ll teach her . . . if she were willing to pay attention to her foibles.

That said, Peters combines first person protagonist point-of-view and unreliable narrator, all from Peabody’s perspective. Well, you can hardly say Amelia is totally reliable! She does tend to write herself into a better position. Yep, the story is written as if a journal.

Even though the action takes place around Egyptology and archeology, the story is set in London, for the professor is way behind on writing his History of Ancient Egypt, and the Oxford Press is hounding him.

Peabody’s “appreciation” for her son cracks me up. She calls him “catastrophically precocious”; the Egyptians regard him as a juvenile jinni. Both are accurate, lol. I think Ramses has got to be my favorite character in all this, as much as I appreciate Peabody’s strengths.

“Revise? The little scamp has practically re-written it! He has corrected my dates, my analyses of historical events, my discussion of the . . . “

“It was a pleasure to find a group of men who had worse manners than my own son.”

“The house was blissfully quiet . . . Ramses was in his room, mummifying a rat or manufacturing dynamite . . .”

And I think the little lad is only nine years old, LOL!

Peters is quite good at her Victorian descriptions of Emerson and Peabody’s sex life, lol. It certainly is extensive, *more laughter*. Peabody definitely spends time on describing the magnificence of his body. I love how Emerson and Peabody require those “little differences of opinion which add so much to the enjoyment of marriage”.

That Minton is just as assertive as Peabody! Which, ahem, is not appreciated by Peabody, lol.

Hmm, Budge. Don’t hold back, Peabody, lol. He is a good example of greed overcoming morality.

James is bringing out Peabody’s thoughts on her childhood memories and the brutality of her brothers. He really is the most insulting man! As for his opinion on what gentlemen should know . . . oy! It appears that the apples have not fallen far from the tree, for Percy and Violet are little beasts. Ramses is the most stalwart young boy! We get some insight into Emerson’s back history too. And now I want to meet Radcliffe and Walter’s mother.

The Emersons interact as a family with Ramses and his two young cousins, playing tourist, being educated in sermons and history, and Ramses being pushed deep into a hole. An even worse hole, as his parents think he’s odd and needs to be involved in innocent games . . . hah! What I didn’t understand is why Ramses would be attracted to Violet! Ick! Uck! No!

Lord Liverpool’s state of health was so very sad and appears to be self-inflicted. It was annoying how Peters danced around his disease — I wanna know what it was! And his “participation” in the story exasperates Emerson. He had thought they’d get through this case without any of the aristocracy!

I have to give Emerson credit. He may want to prevent Peabody from going anywhere, but he knows he’d never be able to keep her back.

It’s Peabody’s and Emerson’s interactions in so many areas of life that keep me coming back. Full of laughter, honesty, and excitement.

Not to worry, though, Percy “takes full responsibility”. Smarmy little git.

The Story

The donation of a mummy has created opportunities for scenes of the metaphysical and ancient religion . . . which have led to murder!

A sensation that’s being fueled by opportunistic newspapers declaring that the Emersons are being asked to consult.

The Characters

Amelia Peabody Emerson, a.k.a. Sitt Hakim, is an ardent feminist and passionate archeologist along with her husband, Professor Radcliffe Emerson, a.k.a. the Father of Curses, an eminent archeologist. Their son, Walter “Ramses“, is a juvenile genius having mastered a variety of languages. He has a love for animals (and his mother’s forthrightness). The cat Bastet is firmly attached to Ramses, and she’s pregnant. Their country house in Kent, Amarna Manor, is staffed by Wilkins as the butler; Rose is their parlormaid and devoted to Ramses; and, John is a devoted footman — his wife has had a baby. In Kent, Mrs Emerson sometimes attends St Winifred’s where Mr Wentworth is the vicar.

Walter Emerson is Emerson’s younger brother and renowned for his knowledge of ancient languages. He’s married to Evelyn, Peabody’s dearest friend (Crocodile on the Sandbank, 1). They have four children: Radcliffe, the twins John and William, and little Amelia. Chalfont House is Walter and Evelyn’s home in London, which they have opened up to Peabody and Emerson. Mrs Watson, a distant relation of Evelyn’s mother, is the housekeeper. Gargery is the newly hired butler. Kitty, Mary Ann, and Jane are housemaids and Henry and Bob are footmen. Another Henry is the coachman. Ben is the gardener’s boy.

James Peabody is the oldest of Amelia’s five brothers. A manipulative jerk. Percival and Violet are his hideous children. “Helen” is Violet’s doll. His wife, Elizabeth, is, um, under the weather. Mr Fletcher was Amelia’s father’s man of business. Henry, another brother, died some time ago.

Archeology
Abdullah is the foreman, the reis, of the Emersons’ excavation crew. Selim, part of Abdullah’s family, is a particular friend of Ramses. Flinders Petrie is one of Emerson’s chief rivals and one of the few he respects, grudgingly. Other professional friends include Howard Carter, Mr Quibell, Frank Griffith, and Mr Breasted of Chicago.

Monsieur de Morgan had “discovered” the jewels of a princess at Dashoor in Lion in the Valley, 4.

London
Wallis Budge is the representative of the British Museum, acquiring antiquities illegally. Albert Gore had been a night watchman at the museum. Smith is one of the guards. Eustace Wilson appears to be Budge’s administrative assistant and is a friend of Miss Minton’s. Jonas Oldacre had been an assistant keeper of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities. Madame Blatantowski is a medium; Fetetra is her spirit guide. One of the mummy cases holds Lady Henutmehit.

Inspector Cuff is with Scotland Yard and in charge of Oldacre’s murder. Mr Blakeney Jones, an advisor to the Cairo Police, admires Mrs Emerson. Constable Jenkins. Detective Orlick.

Kevin O’Connell is a journalist with the Daily Yell. M.M. Minton is a reporter for the Morning Mirror and one of Kevin’s rivals. Pettigrew must be in error. Helen McIntosh is the headmistress of a nearby girls’ school. Archdeacon Frederick William Farrar, a famous preacher, speaks at Westminster. Ahmet the Louse is a drug dealer. Ayesha is a woman whom Emerson knew in the past. Today she owns an opium den in London.

Jack, Lord St John St Simon, is Lord Canterbury’s youngest son and a patron of the museum; he has a vile reputation and had been part of Prince Eddy’s crowd. He’s known Margaret since childhood. Ned, Earl of Liverpool and a relative of Queen Victoria’s, is a friend of his with a most disgusting sounding house, Mauldy Manor, with all its ghosts. Barnes is a mutual friend.

A shawabty, a.k.a. ushebti, are figures that represent the functions required of life after death. Mr Brown and Abdul Karim, the Munshi, were favorites of Queen Victoria. Barney Barnato was born a cockney in Whitechapel and rose to become a builder of ostentatious homes on Park Lane. Enid Debenham is now Donald Fraser‘s wife (Lion in the Valley). Sethos is the Master Criminal most recently encountered in Lion in the Valley (and which you really must read if you want to understand all those asides made by Peabody and Emerson).

The Cover and Title

The cover is bordered on left and right with stelae painted in an aged yellow, greens, and oranges, framing a cream background for the text and a blue beetle at the center. An info blurb is at the top with the author’s name immediately below; both are in navy blue. Below the beetle is the title in a colonial blue outlined in a lighter blue. At the bottom is the series information in navy. A cut-out appears where the text overlaps the stelae.

The title refers to Peabody, for she foils The Deeds of the Disturber.

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2 responses to “Book Review: The Deeds of the Disturber by Elizabeth Peters

  1. Wendy

    The disease is almost certainly syphilis, which a high-class Englishwoman wouldn’t speak of directly in that era.

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