5.0 out of 5 stars Elizabeth Peters is as good as ever
I always eagerly await the next Amelia Peabody adventure, and this was worth the wait. Peters had plateaued for awhile, but her latest Amelia tales have recovered the charm and excitement of the earlier ones. Ramses and Nefret are growing as characters of their own. Dare I hope that she will start a new series with Ramses alone? There seems to be the hint of that...
Published on Mar 8 2004 by Anna Stanford
3.0 out of 5 stars It depends on what you're looking for . . .
Fans of Amelia Peabody and her willful entourage will enjoy this addition to the series. As a stand-alone story it leaves much to be desired. There's a lot more talk than action, more brute violence than sophisticated mystery, more accounting of trivial social events than archaeological puzzles. And if you haven't read the previous books, you'll probably be confused by...
Published on Oct 11 2001 by Diane Davis
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2.0 out of 5 stars PHARAOH EMERSON & FAMILY,
This review is from: The Ape Who Guards the Balance (Mass Market Paperback)Elizabeth Peters writes with an assured cadence. Her stories seem to unfold as though revealed in a handwritten letter and with elegant penmanship. Having read two delightful short stories set in Egypt I was ready to immerse myself in a full length book.
For the first time the clerk in my bookstore approved of my choice. She was a devoted fan of the Amelia Peabody series. I was sure to love it. Before this she had failed to comment on any of my bi-weekly mystery selections. I sensed I was in for something special.
The quality of writing did not disappoint. The archeology felt authentic. I learned a lot about excavating Egypt. The settings seemed appropriate to the times and circumstances. I even lamented the intrusion of industrialization upon gentler traditions. I was reminded of Merchant & Ivory.
The Emersons could have been so much more compelling. They are a liberally-collected rainbow group who would be welcomed and entertained at most sophisticated social events of OUR time, but would xenophic and racist Londoners toward the end of Victoria's reign been so kind to compatriots who had "gone native"? Yet it was the mixed backgrounds of two of the "children" that I thought could have yielded the most interest.
What was uninteresting to me was how physically attractive they had to be. Emerson's "steely arms" and "muscular chest"; Ramses' physical stature and attraction for women; David's appearance being similar to Ramses with "the long-lashed dark eyes"; and "strikingly pretty, extremely intelligent" Nefret was even blessed with laughter "like sunlit water bubbling over pebbles". Peabody herself was able to look good in any outfit while being the object of a Master Criminal's desires. Did they also have to be rich and well-bred? Then I was reminded of Lara Croft, Tomb Raider.
I much prefer Elizabeth Peters' short story characters: Senu, the carpenter, and Rennefer, the weaver, or Baenre, the potter, "a scanty little man with thin hair and sharp bones", to these pharaoh-like protagonists. Without the lordly Emersons the short stories are able to plunge the reader directly into that heat and dust where, due to the humble (or average) circumstances of the characters, there is no escaping the mystery, but to solve it.
The Emersons were in Egypt by choice. Their wealth, background, and physical stature distinguished them from the masses. They were even more privileged and rarified than their "lesser" countrymen, some whose careers kept them in Egypt. Throughout the book it occured to me that if situations turned too ugly The Emersons could have decamped to London for a season of ablutions and liberal causes.
I hope Elizabeth Peters, with her knowledge of Egyptology and excellent writing skills, will give us a book length mystery involving Egyptians in their own country.
5.0 out of 5 stars Elizabeth Peters is as good as ever,
This review is from: The Ape Who Guards the Balance (Mass Market Paperback)I always eagerly await the next Amelia Peabody adventure, and this was worth the wait. Peters had plateaued for awhile, but her latest Amelia tales have recovered the charm and excitement of the earlier ones. Ramses and Nefret are growing as characters of their own. Dare I hope that she will start a new series with Ramses alone? There seems to be the hint of that possibility, but maybe it's my imagination.... An abduction attempt at Amelia in England leads them to suspect the Master Criminal once again, and this year's Egyptian expedition is off to a lively start. Emerson is frustrated at not being allowed to start any new digs in the Valley of the Kings, but discovers another tomb anyway. Ramses, David and Nefret are more involved in this one, and both Ramses's and David's romantic interests add an interesting spice to the story. Wonderful as usual, and if you have met Amelia and her family before, I don't need to explain. If you haven't, it's time you got acquainted.
5.0 out of 5 stars The Return of the Master Criminal, Sethos,
This review is from: The Ape Who Guards the Balance (Mass Market Paperback)The Master Criminal, one of the best characters in the Amelia Peabody series, returns in The Ape Who Guards the Balance. I also enjoyed hearing parts of the story from different points of view (in addition to Amelia's).
2.0 out of 5 stars Flawed Entry in a Usually Delightful Series,
This review is from: The Ape Who Guards the Balance (Mass Market Paperback)A series as long-running as the Peabody books is bound to contain a few duds. The Lion in the Valley, The Deeds of the Disturber, and The Hippopotamus Pool all had their share of problems, but The Ape Who Guards the Balance manages to offend in a way none of these earlier works did. It has excellent sections, particularly in the interactions between Ramses, David, and Nefret, and the Emersons' presence at the botched excavation of KV55 was a nice touch, but both the central mystery and the key emotional events of this volume are wasted effort.
The mystery is not a terribly interesting one; the opening chapter makes it clear that Sethos is back and that there will be even more people creeping about in various disguises than usual (this is possibly the weakness of this series in general). Sethos I can handle, but the villain of this book was tiresome the first two times she popped up and is even worse in this round. Peters undercuts any feminist agenda she might have by inadvertently making a key villainess far less compelling than one-shot villains like Riccetti and Pesanker. Bring back Lady Baskerville, if you must, but no more of this!
As for the personal travails of the Emerson clan... the troubles foreshadowed in the previous book are hinted at more and more strongly here, and then the images of a fratricidal tangle over Nefret resolve abruptly in a way that might be realistic in life but is unsatisfying as fiction. Some people fall in love, some are revealed as latent racists who turn upon their loved ones in times of stress, some die, and some stay the same. None of this turmoil is terribly affecting-and this is in the tenth volume of a series I've devoted much time and mental energy to, a series whose characters are 'people' I enjoy spending time with!
I feel the series soared back on course with Falcon at the Portal, and reached higher still with He Shall Thunder in the Sky, but Ape just didn't cohere.
1.0 out of 5 stars Worst book I have ever read!,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Ape Who Guards the Balance (Mass Market Paperback)I have never written a negative review, but this book is the worst I have ever read! I cannot stand any of the characters. The author belittles the readers ability to understand plot without explaining every thought (and she labels it "clever" so as to dumb down the reader) as if we would never be smart enough to understand unless she s-p-e-l-l-s it out for us.
You probably wonder why I kept reading it. Metaphorically speaking, it was like a train wreck, or the car wreck that you have to slow down and observe (by the way, notice how I just spoke down to you because your limited intellect would have NEVER known that I was speaking metaphorically unless I told you!). I thought that nobody could be this bad at telling a story. You know, I was wrong! This book made the The Celestine Prophecy seem good in comparison (another book that I have issues).
So, I really feel sorry for the readers that think this is good writing! If you do, you might want to check out The Celestine Prophecy (very preachy and you don't have to think).
3.0 out of 5 stars It depends on what you're looking for . . .,
This review is from: The Ape Who Guards the Balance (Mass Market Paperback)Fans of Amelia Peabody and her willful entourage will enjoy this addition to the series. As a stand-alone story it leaves much to be desired. There's a lot more talk than action, more brute violence than sophisticated mystery, more accounting of trivial social events than archaeological puzzles. And if you haven't read the previous books, you'll probably be confused by the recurring characters and their agendas. Still, aficionados won't want to miss the latest chapter in the lives of a unique and very entertaining family.
5.0 out of 5 stars Enticing Cavort in Edwardian Egypt,
This review is from: The Ape Who Guards the Balance (Mass Market Paperback)I do not read many mystery novels - generally, I read the first and last five pages, to see the problem and its solution. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie were about the only mystery writers I ever read - until I read "The Ape Who Guards the Balance", by Elizabeth Peters. I could not put it down, and am now a confirmed Peabody enthusiast.
The story is well-crafted, delivered with wit, charm, and elegance of style. The characters are all believable (some feat, surely, for people of such fondness for peroration) and framed with precision and allure. I shan't give away any details, as I hate to ruin a good yarn, which this surely is.
One note: while I do not generally exhort strict adherence to sequential structure, I would advise that the Reader would get more enjoyment from reading the Peabody series in chronological order than hodgepodge. The development and maturation of the characters is more easily displayed and ascertained through sequential order.
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing (no-spoiler review),
By A Customer
This review is from: The Ape Who Guards the Balance (Mass Market Paperback)I will admit, I don't read much fiction. Especially not modern fiction. But, being something of an Egyptology enthusiast (small wonder, since I am mother to one) I decided to give this book a go. And I am so glad I did! It actually kept me so interested that I couldn't sleep until I had finished it. I stayed reading till after three a.m. What a pity that this is the only book of the series that my library has!
5.0 out of 5 stars enjoyable,
This review is from: The Ape Who Guards the Balance (Mass Market Paperback)Involving Amelia and her Egyptologist husband, Radcliffe Emerson, their gifted son Ramses as well as David and Nefret, this novel begins in 1907 in England where Amelia attends a suffragettes' meeting. From that moment on, bizarre events put the Emerson Peabody family in danger. Suspecting that the Master Criminal is behind their problems, the family travels to Egypt in order to continue excavating in the Valley of Kings. As always, their archaeological expedition is interrupted by several incidents. Fascinating entertainment where adventure and romance meet.
3.0 out of 5 stars Getting very sleepy ...,
This review is from: The Ape Who Guards the Balance (Mass Market Paperback)This is the kind of book where if you read the first three chapters and the last three, you haven't missed much. Still an improvement on Amelia's last outing, I was wondering if these were the same characters I had grown to love. What on earth has happened to Amelia? Since when was she a racist and a snob? Her reaction to David and Lia was simply unbelievable and her comments about the nouveau riche and servants are irritating. If I can remember, Amelia herself didn't come from a particularly rich family - it was her father's shrewd investments that produced her wealth. Amelia has now become the stereotypical Victorian stiff that she ridiculed in the first books! I love the characters of Ramses and David, but I find it hard to warm to Nefret. The girl is just too good to be true! There are only so many times I can stomach reading how she seems to be "wreathed in her own golden light". In this book, in particular, both she and Lia come across as obnoxious and spoilt which hardly endears one to them. It would also have been nice if Lia could have done something other than turn up, faint, simper over a man, then go home again. Amelia was likeable because she was a strong woman who went against the ideals of her age - and using brains instead of beauty. None of the other female characters have even touched her yet. I am also finding it tiresome how nearly every single other supporting character in the book falls in love with Amelia, Emerson, Ramses or Nefret! Please, just give it a rest! But in spite of all this, the ending is worth waiting for, if only for the interactions with, and some revelations about the mysterious Master Criminal. And I even cried when Abdullah died.
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The Ape Who Guards the Balance by Elizabeth Peters (Mass Market Paperback - 1999)
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