No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Sunday, April 23, 2017

2017/45: A River in the Sky -- Elizabeth Peters

Americans had never established a political foothold in the Middle East. They were regarded as guests, sometimes annoying but not threatening. England bestrode the region like a colossus – one foot in India, one in Egypt, its influence stretching into large parts of Africa. England imposed her own laws and controlled every aspect of government, from education to trade.[loc. 1479]

Although, in terms of internal chronology, this comes between The Ape Who Guards the Balance and The Falcon at the Portal, it was written quite a lot later: I believe it was the last novel that Peters published before her death in 2013.

Sadly, a decline is tangible. There's some clumsy writing, a lot of exposition, and flawed characterisation. (Ramses is unable to escape from his captors; Amelia rushes in where angels fear to tread; nobody identifies the blatantly villainous spy.) It doesn't help, either, that the setting is Palestine before the First World War: excavation rules are different there -- not that anyone does much excavating -- and the historical and archaeological points of interest are considerably more controversial, and politically significant, than those of Egypt. The Emerson tribe seems a little out of its depth, and the villains of the tale have religious motivations as well as political ones.

Not my favourite of the Amelia Peabody novels by a long way. There are moments of interest, but the plot seems flimsy and the characters pastiches of themselves.

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