Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Book Review: The Painted Queen by Elizabeth Peters and Joan Hess

The Painted Queen
Author: Elizabeth Peters and Joan Hess
Series: Amelia Peabody Series
Publication: William Morrow (July 25, 2017)

Description: Egypt, 1912—Amelia Peabody and her dashing archeologist husband, Radcliffe Emerson, are once again in danger as they search for a priceless, stolen bust of legendary Queen Nefertiti and Amelia finds herself the target of assassins in this long-awaited, eagerly anticipated final installment of Elizabeth Peters’ bestselling, beloved mystery series.

Arriving in Cairo for another thrilling excavation season, Amelia is relaxing in a well-earned bubble bath in her elegant hotel suite in Cairo, when a man with knife protruding from his back staggers into the bath chamber and utters a single word—"Murder"—before collapsing on the tiled floor, dead. Among the few possessions he carried was a sheet of paper with Amelia’s name and room number, and a curious piece of pasteboard the size of a calling card bearing one word: "Judas." Most peculiarly, the stranger was wearing a gold-rimmed monocle in his left eye.

It quickly becomes apparent that someone saved Amelia from a would-be assassin—someone who is keeping a careful eye on the intrepid Englishwoman. Discovering a terse note clearly meant for Emerson—Where were you?"—pushed under their door, there can be only one answer: the brilliant master of disguise, Sethos.

But neither assassins nor the Genius of Crime will deter Amelia as she and Emerson head to the excavation site at Amarna, where they will witness the discovery of one of the most precious Egyptian artifacts: the iconic Nefertiti bust. In 1345 B.C. the sculptor Thutmose crafted the piece in tribute to the great beauty of this queen who was also the chief consort of Pharaoh Akhenaten and stepmother to King Tutankhamun.

For Amelia, this excavation season will prove to be unforgettable. Throughout her journey, a parade of men in monocles will die under suspicious circumstances, fascinating new relics will be unearthed, a diabolical mystery will be solved, and a brilliant criminal will offer his final challenge . . . and perhaps be unmasked at last.

My Thoughts: The final Amelia Peabody story (completed by Joan Hess after Elizabeth Peters passed away) is set in 1912. Amelia and Emerson are preparing for another season of excavating in Egypt. However, they aren't in Egypt two hours when the first assassin breaks into Amelia's bathing chamber and dies from a knife in the back. Amelia, being Amelia and not unfamiliar with being the target of assassins, takes this in stride.

Amelia and Emerson soon learn that she and Ramses are being targeted by the five remaining Godwin brothers who want revenge for the death of Nefret's villainous husband Geoffrey Godwin. The only distinguishing feature to identify the assassins is that they were monocles.

But assassins aside, Emerson and Amelia are directed to Amarna to check on excavations by Herr Morgenstern who has been behaving erratically. Apparently he has absconded to Cairo with a bust of Nefertiti that he found in his excavations. This sets Ramses and David on a quest to find the bust. Which they do, but not before uncovering a number of forgeries and villains who want the bust also.

Meanwhile, Morgenstern wanders in and out of danger apparently having some sort of mental episodes that leave him paranoid and confused. Amelia dashes into danger to save him a few times despite the threat of assassins.

I love this series and this final volume had all the things I love. The relationship between Amelia and Emerson is a a match of equals. Amelia is profoundly herself - entitled, decisive, and determined. She has a reckless disregard for her her own safety probably fostered by her belief that she is invincible.

The mystery with the many busts of Nefertiti and the actions of the hirsute missionary added interest. The inept assassins added both danger and humor.

Someday, I want to read this whole series again in internal chronological order to see how everyone changed and grew.

Favorite Quote:
"We cannot abandon Zawaiet!"

When seen in print, this statement lacks a certain portentousness. When uttered in Emerson's deep resonant basso, it has the effect of a decree from on high. Very high.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.


  1. Oh my, I love this series and hope Joan Hess might carry it on. I recently bought this book. For those interested start with the first in the series, "Crocodile on the Sandbank" when Amelia and Emerson meet.

  2. This sounds like a fun series. It's good to know that the last book was just as good as the others, even with a different author.


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