Let me first say that I agree with all of the other reviewers on this book, that the mystery elements are decidedly weak. That being said, this book is a fitting end to the saga of the extended Emerson family, if, indeed, it is to be the last one in the series.
Yes, it is definitely a gathering of friends and family, and yes, several loose ends from previous books in the series have been nicely wrapped up. But beyond that, Tomb of the Golden Bird is a realistic continuation of the lives of this amazing family. The characters have grown, they've learned, yet they remain a close-knit, loving family. The familial details serve as a fitting focal point to the story, not a distraction-- if anything, in this book, the mystery elements were almost a distraction from the family drama.
Elizabeth Peters finally tackles the discovery and excavation of the tomb of King Tut, and she inserts the Emerson family into the excitement with great realism. Family patriarch, Radcliffe Emerson, by virtue of one of his characteristic outbursts, manages to get himself, his family and friends banned from participating in the excavation of the tomb. Despite this, we still manage to get plenty of details about the excavation as Peters manages to find credible ways to insert the Emersons into the excavation without harm to historical veracity.
While I agree with the other reviewers that this book is not as strong as some of the others in the series, I am still giving it 5 stars, because Peters has maintained a consistency of quality throughout the series, and has also succeeded from keeping the familial and personal elements from becoming annoying intrusions-- unlike other writers such as Patricia Cornwell.
With this book, Peters faces the problem that has long troubled writers-- how do you have your beloved characters age gracefully and how do you allow for the fact that when you write a series set in the past, you have to include the historical elements that occur with the passage of time, no matter how inconvenient they may be? Peters tackles these things head on-- rather than pretending that the Emersons were the excavators of Tut's tomb, she finds a plausible reason to leave them on the outskirts. Rather than pretending that the political turmoil in Egypt did not happen, she involves her characters in the issue of nationalism and rebellion against British colonialism.
I hate to think that this is the last Amelia Peabody book, because I have loved each and every one of them. But if, indeed, it is, Peters has written a fitting ending to the series. Amelia Peabody forever!