A River in the Sky by Elizabeth Peters
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A River In The Sky, by Elizabeth Peters
Synopsis: August 1910. Banned from the Valley of the Kings by the Antiquities Service, Amelia Peabody and her husband, Emerson, are relaxing at home in Kent, enjoying the tranquil beauty of summer. But adventure soon beckons when they are persuaded to follow would-be archaeologist Major George Morley on an expedition to Palestine, a province of the crumbling, corrupt Ottoman Empire and the Holy Land of three religions. Searching for the vanished treasures of the Temple in Jerusalem, Morley is determined to unearth the legendary Ark of the Covenant.
The skeptical Emerson wants no part of the scheme until a request from the War Office and Buckingham Palace persuades him to reconsider. The Germans are increasing their influence in Palestine and British intelligence insists that Morley is an agent of the Kaiser, sent to stir up trouble in this politically volatile land. Emerson can't believe that the seemingly inept Morley is a German spy, but could he be mistaken?
Determined to prevent a catastrophically unprofessional excavation that could destroy priceless historical finds as well as cause an armed protest by infuriated Christians, Jews, and Muslims who view the Temple Mount, also known as the Dome of the Rock, as sacred, Amelia, Emerson, and company head to Palestine. Though it is not to her beloved Egypt, the trip to Jerusalem will also reunite her with her handsome and headstrong son, Ramses, working on a dig at Samaria, north of the holy city.
Before Ramses can meet his parents, however, he is distracted by an unusual party of travelers who have arrived in Samaria, including a German woman archaeologist and a mysterious man of unknown nationality and past. Unfortunately, Ramses's insatiable curiosity and his knack for trouble lead him to a startling discovery: information he must pass on to his parents in Jerusalem—if he can get there alive.
Once again the Peabody-Emerson clan must use all their skills and wiles to find the truth, prevent a bloody holy war, and save their son from the clutches of a nefarious enemy in this wonderfully engaging tale chock-full of thrills, mystery, and daring from the inimitable Elizabeth Peters.
In A Sentence: A decent read, an interesting installment, but no “wow” factor
My Thoughts: This story was enjoyable, but it’s not my favorite in the series. Not by a long shot. This was a flashback in time to about 12 years before The Tomb Of The Golden Bird, so the huge time jump was a bit difficult for me to get into. I was so used to Ramses being older and with kids, and to Emerson and Amelia pushing 80, that I had a hard time changing gears to deal with a younger, more independent Ramses.
There were some flaws that were also a little jarring. I mean, not inaccuracies, but there were things that Peters neglected to mention that I felt were crucial for the story to flow smoothly in the Emerson timeline.
(view spoiler)[For example, in 1910, Nefret is still not aware of Ramses’ love for her, but that is hardly mentioned. She is also much more high-spirited with a quick temper, but in this book, she seems more subdued than usual. In fact, in this installment, we see a Nefret that is more prominent in Tomb Of The Golden Bird: a mature mother who has gone through a lot. Her letters to Lia are also missing in this book, something she used to do a lot in previous books.
Another thing that was jarring was Amelia’s dreams with Abdullah. There was only one dream with Abdullah, and it wasn’t of anything of note. Usually they are much more significant in the story.
Final note: I was surprised with David’s presence in Palestine; previous books gave me the impression that he wasn’t there (maybe I’m wrong). I was also surprised that Peters didn’t mention the incident where Ramses apparently nearly gets whipped to death. It was mentioned in earlier books that it happened while Ramses was in Palestine, but it wasn’t shown period in this book. I was really disappointed with that omission; I wanted to learn more about this incident, since it was an important factor in the other books. (hide spoiler)]
I guess that at the time that Peters wrote this very last book in the Amelia Peabody series, she was already very distanced from the series (there’s a 4-year gap between the publishing of the previous book and this book), and even more distanced from the earlier books, so from that standpoint the flaws and omissions make sense. But it’s still disappointing. I think if she had written this story several years earlier, the book would have been so much better. Ah well.
So overall, was this a good read? Yeah, it was fun alright. It had the humor, the action, the mystery, and everything was tied into a neat little bow in the end. But it didn’t have the energy of previous books, and it doesn’t fit smoothly into the Emerson timeline. If you are planning on reading this, I would say this book works as a standalone novel, but not as a crucial part of the Amelia Peabody series in general. In fact, if you are planning to work through the whole series, you can skip this one; it really doesn’t add to the series.
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