Book Review: The Hippopotamus Pool by Elizabeth Peters

Posted January 17, 2022 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: The Hippopotamus Pool 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 Hippopotamus Pool by Elizabeth Peters
Genres: Mystery, Amateur Sleuth, Historical
Published by Grand Central Publishing on December 2, 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, Lion in the Valley, The Deeds of the Disturber, The Last Camel Died at Noon, The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog, 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

Eighth in the Amelia Peabody amateur sleuth in an historical mystery series revolving around a feminist archeologist in Egypt. It’s New Year’s Eve and the turn of the century at Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo.

My Take

Amelia Peabody is an example of the best of humanity and that most annoying of women — the know-it-all. Despite her high opinion of herself, The Hippopotamus Pool is filled with laughter, suspense, terror, and joy in a cozy setting in Luxor.

I do adore Ramses and his mother’s attitude towards him cracks me up. Oh, she’s proud of him, but I suspect Peabody would prefer someone else endure him, lol. She should be grateful that Ramses and Nefret secretly taught Emerson to waltz.

I realized that I adore the professor, if only for being so straightforward. He’s honest and loyal, and doesn’t care whom he offends. Peters does keep things lively with Peabody’s and Emerson’s relationship and their different approaches to life, lol. You can’t help but adore how comfortable Ramses and Emerson are with everyone in Egypt. Every story tells of their having acquaintances everywhere, from pickpockets and beggars to sellers of antiquities and the average man on the street.

It isn’t the presence of Nefret that “encourages” Ramses to shorten up his “longwinded, pompous speech patterns”!!

Ooh, very Saturday-afternoon-at-the-movies! Faithful men who have protected her tomb over the centuries will choose who will find Queen Tetisheri’s tomb! Daoud’s rush to rescue Ramses and get assistance. The dramatic confrontation with the kidnappers.

Oh, oh. Emerson is entranced by a Stanley Steamer. Yeah, progress progresses everywhere, and Peters is “good” about noting developments throughout Egypt. And yet I prefer imagining myself floating down the Nile in a dahabeeyah . . .

I was about to whine about Peabody’s sense of superiority with that comment she makes about a “proper English breakfast” but then I realized I could be putting my emphasis in the wrong place. It could simply have been a quick description of an elaborate breakfast of what the average tourist expects. Then again, Walter notes that even Amelia couldn’t suspect an Englishman of murder and assault. My question is, why not? If anything she should be more appalled by the treatment of victimized nationals by the authorities!?!

Peters does poke fun at “progress” in the shape of “five days and a half for the wonders of Egypt”. I much prefer Peabody’s approach, living in the country and experiencing the culture and the people.

Bureaucrats would adore Emerson’s passion for paperwork and helps describe the evolution of archeological studies. It’s Kevin who notes that Peabody’s previous fairytale translations have a relevance to her own story.

Egods, people are so much the same everywhere . . . these bloody tourists who think they can do anything and go anywhere. I truly appreciate Emerson’s attitude at these times, lol.

Peters uses first person protagonist point-of-view from Peabody’s perspective, so we know everything she thinks, feels, and experiences. Since she’s such a busybody, it’s quite a lot, lol. Not as much experience though as she claims she has with the opposite sex, roflmao.

Nefret and Ramses add additional liveliness as they compete with each other. It’s history and forensics wrapped up in mystery and action with a colorful cast of characters.

The Story

A stranger appears and claims that Drah Abu’l Naga is the location of Queen Tetisheri’s tomb, an undisturbed royal tomb.

Now if only the Emersons, their family, and their friends can manage the kidnappings, attacks, and each other as they face a horrid new villain who will stop at nothing.

Another wrecked shirt, another body . . .

The Characters

Amelia Peabody Emerson, a.k.a. Sitt Hakim, has added translator of Egyptian fairy tales to her résumé. This year she’s translating The Hppopotamus Pool, a tale of Apophis and Sekenenre. Besides her scandalous dress and that tool belt of hers, Peabody wields the terrifying parasol that can bring strong men to their knees. Psst, she’s “Peabody” when Emerson is content with her and “Amelia” when he’s furious with her.

Her husband is Professor Radcliffe Emerson, “the most preeminent Egyptologist of this or any century”. A man whose temper inspired his nickname, the Father of Curses. Walter “Ramses“, a.k.a. the Brother of Demons, is their twelve-and-a-half-year-old son, who has an intellect that cannot be denied and a passion for disguise. And he’s gotten so tall that he’s graduated to long trousers. Nefret is their beautiful fifteen-year-old ward, a former priestess of Isis rescued in The Last Camel Died at Noon, 6. The cat Bastet (The Curse of the Pharaohs, 2) has been joined by Anubis (The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog, 7), who prefers Emerson. The Philae had been Amelia’s dahabeeya back in Crocodile on the Sandbank, 1; Emerson has bought her back and renamed her the Amelia Peabody Emerson with her former captain’s son as its current reis, Hassan. Mahmud is their steward aboard the Amelia.

Cyrus Vandergelt is a wealthy American and friend of the Emersons with his own dahabeeya, the Valley of the Kings. He’s as passionate about archeology as Emerson but with a preference for royal tombs. William “Willy” Amherst is Cyrus’ new assistant.

Queen Tetisheri’s tomb, Thebes / Luxor
Abydos was the holiest city in Egypt and where King Ahmose, Tetisheri’s grandson, raised a shrine to her. Hatshepsut, directly descended from Tetisheri, pushed her nephew Thutmose III aside and declared herself pharaoh and then built a temple at Deir el Bahri. Senmut was the Steward of Amon and the most talented of her officials. Possibly also her lover.

Abdullah ibn Hassan al Wahhab is the Emersons’ beloved reis (foreman). He and his family have been trained by and worked with Emerson for years and are highly sought-after as a team and valued as friends. The team includes his sons Ali, Hassan, and Selim (Ramses’ former partner in crime who is now married and a father); Daoud, Abdullah’s nephew and teller of tales; and, Ibrahim, a nephew or cousin. They’ll be staying with family and friends in Gurneh, a village filled with the most accomplished tomb robbers and forgers in Egypt. Hussein Abd er Rasul is one of the Abd er Rasul brothers who are notorious for their successes. Abd el Hamed had been one of the best. David Todros is Hamed’s (and Abdullah’s) grandson, around Ramses’ age. Michael Todros, a Christian Copt, had been David’s father. Solimen is one of Hamed’s sons. Ali Mahmud is terrified of Peabody’s parasol.

Miss Gertrude Marmaduke will act as Ramses’ tutor and as secretary for this year’s dig. Sir Edward Washington, a younger son without prospects — he is a distant relation of Lord Northampton, is not a suitable partner, per Ramses. He is, however, a photographer who had worked with Newberry the previous season.

Ali Murad is an antiquities dealer. Layla is a wealthy former widow. Kevin O’Connell is the star journalist for the Daily Yell in London and well acquainted with the Emersons. Dr Willoughby (The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog, 7) is still practicing in Luxor, which is fast becoming known as a health resort.

Mariette founded the Antiquities Department of which M. Maspero is the current director. Howard Carter, an excellent copyist, is the new Inspector of Antiquities for Upper Egypt. Quibell holds the post for Lower Egypt. Other archeologists include the Reverend Mr Sayce and his Istar; Newberry; Spiegelberg; Professor Petrie has recently married Hildahopefully, she can keep his staff from dying of food poisoning!; and, Naville. Sir Eldon Gorst is with the Cairo police and an old friend of Peabody’s. Lord Cromer, the former Sir Evelyn Baring, is the British Consul General and another old friend.

Shepheard’s Hotel is the Emersons’ favored establishment. Mr Jenkins is the assistant manager. Ali is the suffragi on the Emersons’ floor. Captain Carter, Count Stradivarius, the handsy Mr Arbuthnot and his even fatter wife, and Mrs Everly, who is the wife of the Interior Minister, all attend the New Year’s Eve ball at Shepheard’s. The mysterious Mr Saleh claims to be the ka of Heriamon of Thebes, the High Priest of Queen Tetisheri. Mrs Wilson is a seamstress.

Signor Riccetti, a.k.a. the Hippopotamus Man, is/has been the most notorious antiquities dealer in Egypt and a consular agent for Austria. The rumors claim he had been a member of a notorious terrorist society! He knows Leopold Abdullah Shelmadine, a clerk in the Interior Ministry. Abd el-Atti, Chauncey, Murch, and Emile Brugsch are more antiquities dealers. Wallis Budge is a contemptible acquirer of antiquities for the British Museum. Ali Murad is the American consular agent.

Bertha had been Sethos’ mistress and co-conspirator. Matilda is her bodyguard. Sethos is the Master Criminal whom we first met in Lion in the Valley, 4.

Kent, England
The Emersons’ home, Amarna House, is staffed by Gargery, the butler, and Rose, who is the parlormaid. The prince of Cush and childhood friend, Tabirka, is buried in the backyard under a small pyramid (The Last Camel Died at Noon).

Yorkshire, England
Professor Walter Emerson, Radcliffe’s younger brother, is a renowned Egyptologist and linguist married to Evelyn (Crocodile on the Sandbank). Chalfont Castle is their country home; Chalfont House is their London House. Wilkins is the butler.

Tauret is an Egyptian god often shown as a hippopotamus, the patroness of childbirth. Lord and Lady Lowry-Corry were tourists who threatened Emerson with dismissal.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a range of oranges from brown to deep rust to orange to gold to yellow — a background of light colors meeting on either side of a narrow skyline of gray pyramids and Sphinx above a light brown band of riverbank with sky above to river below and gradating into the darker ranges. In the center is a blue hippopotamus standing on a round stone base with its reflection appearing in the river. At the very top is an info blurb in a pale brownish purple with the author’s name immediately below it in an embossed gold, her last name just brushing the hippo’s back. Below the riverbank is a colonial blue pyramid icon tipped in red providing the series info in white to the left of the hippo. The title is in white directly under the stone base over the reflected hippo. At the very bottom, below the reflection is a testimonial in the same brownish purple.

The title refers to a war of wit and evil in The Hippopotamus Pool.

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