on July 17, 2004
Elizabeth Peters has been one of my favorite mystery writers for many years now. Her Amelia Peabody series is so well written and documented. She's an archeologist, as is her husband, who loves to explore tombs in Egypt. she has a rather long listing of books, many containing hundreds of pages each. She is prolific. None are hard to read. All are interesting.
I think perhaps my favorite is "Night Train to Memphis" or could be "The Love Talker." This one follows Ms. Peabody and entourage again to Egypt. She not only explores antiquities in strange places, she is also a Master Investigator which gets her in 'hot water' on occasion.
Like me, she indulges in the daily horoscopes. The title for this Peabody/Emerson episode comes from an ancient Egyptian horoscope: "The day of the children of the storm. Very dangerous. Do not go on the water this day."
This is the 15th published "journal" of Amelia encompassing three generations of an amazing family saga (35 yrs. of turbulent history) including a diary of son Ramses, named after a pharaoh.
Amelia was called by the natives, "Lady Doctor" while Emerson was "Father of Curses." Ramses accompanied his uncle Sethos as a secret agent because of his use of disguises and fluency in languages.
Justin had tormented Charla, young daughter of Ramses who'd waited to talk until she got ready, like her dad. Like Eric. Ms. Peters who loves cats almost as much as I do, educated at the University of Chicago like my son Geoffrey, never ceases to amaze me with her knowledge.
This is another page turner, always an exciting "adventure" in store. You are kept in suspense about the happenings until the danger is at hand. She is just plain marvelous with her writing abilities and subject matter.
on April 10, 2004
I am a huge fan of the Amelia Peabody books and would give every other one a 5-star rating. However, this one just wasn't up to Amelia's usual standards. It was slow-moving, empty of the witty lines that normally have me laughing hysterically every other sentence, and the characters were a bit flatter than their usual, exciting and individual selves. The funny traits, such as Amelia's list-making and Emerson's loud and oftentimes rude outbursts were more rare and written in less amusing ways. After being excited about reading another of Amelia's journals, from editor's note through the end it was mostly a let-down.
I'm very happy that everything with the Peabody-Emerson family seems to be resolved, and the book is worth-it to read if you are a fan. However, I hate to say it, but I think that there's nowhere else to go. Amelia's generation is in their sixties, the Master Criminal has reformed, Ramses's generation is trying to settle down and become responsible parents, and Davy's generation is too young to do anything exciting. The war is over and Sethos has reformed... I think it's time to be happy with re-reading all the books we have and with the knowledge that everything worked out well. After all, if every year there continues to be "another dead body", I don't think there will be any more amusing people left in Egypt!
on February 27, 2004
I've read most of the reviews and I have mixed feelings about them. I thoroughly enjoy the Amelia Peabody books - in fact, I usually howl with laughter. "Children of the Storm" was no exception. Some reviewers are correct - it shouldn't be the first book in the series that a new reader reads. Guess what? Neither should any other book in a seriers be the first one read - except for the intended first book!
I thoroughly enjoyed "Children of the Storm" as well. It was more detailed with family detail. Well, what do readers expect? Amelia has a larger family (extended and friends and "blood" family) than when she started the books. THIS IS REAL LIFE, PEOPLE! This is what happens when people have kids and then grandkids and their kids have friends and the protagonists collect friends through their lives.
I, for one, really enjoyed the thought of Amelia/Emerson being grandparents. I loved the part about the 'motor-car' and all the 'discussions' that went on about Emerson and the men putting it together in the courtyard.... I must admit I couldn't stop laughing @ the thought of what would happen if we tried that @ home....
Yep - the number of people were complicated to follow and the storyline was perhaps improbable, but isn't this escapist fiction? I just enjoyed the ride!
Anyhow - I'm not at all disappointed in the amount of money I paid for this book. It was money well spent in terms of enjoyment and laughter!
on November 8, 2003
Maybe even the best mystery series poop out after a while, and perhaps this one desperately needs Abdullah -- alive, not in the occasional dream. I won't bother to explain why I found the first half of this book as eye-glazingly tedious as an issue of GOOD HOUSEBREAKING, since several other reviewers have done that. One of Amelia's most endearing qualities has always been her eccentric attitude toward motherhood and children. Sometimes she reminded me of a female W.C. Fields.
We could have used a lot more of that refreshing sarcasm in CHILDREN OF THE STORM, especially during the genealogically bewildering and slow-moving first part. Since Peters is technically a good writer, the second half moved a little better -- but it never came close to the wit and magic and fine character development of the first Peabody story, CROCODILE ON THE SANDBANK, which, after ten or more re-readings, still makes me cheer the heroes. Even so, despite the excellence of the first book, the series kept getting more and more delicious until its high point in the grand H. Rider Haggard pastiche, THE LAST CAMEL DIED AT NOON, which had me rolling on the floor with laughter and bug-eyed from all the cliff-hanging thrills. Since then -- especially since Abdullah's death -- there's been so much soap opera you have to run to escape drowning in the frothy bubbles. Making Sethos into a hero and a family member was as big a mistake as THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK turning Darth Vader into Luke's Sweet Li'l Ole Reedemable Daddy. And just about as convincing.
I was especially disappointed in this book, though, and can't imagine how a new reader of the series could have tolerated it for ten minutes. Leave the kiddies in England, Amelia, and let's have more of your tomb-crawling and umbrella-bashing.
on October 8, 2003
With fifteen volumes under her umbrella, Elizabeth Peters has an uncontestible hold on the 'turn of the century Egyptologists turned detectives' genre - if there ever really was any competition. Amelia, husband Emerson, children Ramses and Nefret, countless almost children, and now grandchildren have made a long career of running riot through devious crimes commited against the backdrop of ancient tombs and temples. The Emersons may be genteel folk in origin, but in practice they prove as rough and tumble as the villains they fall upon.
This time a series of seemingly unrelated events - a visitation by the Goddess Hathor, the theft of some jewelry from a rich find, and some near misses by local hunters - gradually builds up into a tight net woven to accomplish both grand larceny and revenge. Soon the entire cast of this series are assembled, often, it seems, in one room. Including both of Emerson's brother - quiet-spoken Walter, and the mysterious ex-criminal Sethos. Their opponents are an equally numerous and surprising group, and the resulting chaos is all the more entertaining.
There was a period in this series where the characters became stereotypes of themselves and the story lines a bit formulaic. The Emerson's are alwayts irritating, it is their nature. But for a while, Peters forgot to make them funny enough to compensate. In the very latest volumes, this trend seems to have abated. 'Children of the Storm' moves well, and the characters have become more vivid, even as they have learned to step out of character when it is necessary. In other words, the charm has returns to this series. In fact, I found myself reading it with a certain amount of relish that I have dearly missed.
Peters, as a practicing Egyptologist herself, manages to mix fact with fiction in a concoction that would appeal to anyone who loves tombs and mummies. Whether there ever were archeaologist as unnerving as the Emersons is moot, but one wishes there were. If you have stayed away from some of the latest volumes, it's time to conseder returning.
on June 30, 2003
I have been a fan of Elizabeth Peters since before she started the Amelia Peabody series; she is one of my favorite writers.
So I was dismayed to find that the latest sequel in this series falls a little flat, because I have grown so fond of these characters and look foward with keen anticipation to their next adventure.
The first part of the book is filled not with action and mystery, but with tedious domestic details. And there are so many members of the three-generation family and extended family that it is difficult to keep them straight, and many of them add nothing to the book at all. The usually razor sharp wit of the characters seemed dulled to me; they just didn't seem to be having much fun (nor was I, for that matter). And the spine-tingling adventure that normally keeps the reader on the edge of his/her seat was sadly missing. The characters never seemed to be in any serious jeopardy, unlike past novels in this series.
The plot was pretty transparent as well, and I was disappointed that there weren't the usual red herrings cast about to keep the reader guessing. Fortunately, the book does pick up steam toward the end. However, if you haven't followed the series from the beginning, you may well be lost in the overpopulated maze of too many characters and references to previous books.
To be completely fair, the book is reasonably good; it is only in comparison to earlier and far better novels by Peters that it falls short. There is still enough good writing in this to make it a worthwhile read -- Peters is the author, after all, and few write as well as she does, even when she's not at her absolute best.
on June 16, 2003
The great war is over, but Egypt remains uneasy as peace begins to make its way into the nation. Peace and jewel thiefs--a former associate of Sethos vanishes along with priceless Egyptian jewelery and Amelia Peabody and her entire clan are quick to get into the act. What follows is a fairly long drawn-out series of misfortunes (their boat sinks, their car crashes, a bug threatens the children, a boogie-man appears at the bedroom window, Sethos's long-vanished daughter appears and is assailed. Somehow, Amelia has to make sense of the entire mess. The problem is, this time, she doesn't seem to be the target. Her usual strategy of letting the antagonists capture her won't work this time.
Author Elizabeth Peters concludes CHILDREN OF THE STORM with a hundred pages of action, suspense, and emotional impact. Without the background of the great war that played such a key role in her recent novels, Peters turns to family details to fill up the remainder of the pages. We all enjoy hearing how much Amelia appreciates Emerson's manly, uh, manliness, but perhaps Peters goes a little overboard. Of course, their son Ramses is hardly less manly--which causes problems given that he's married now and all the women still want him.
Fans of Elizabeth Peters (like me) will enjoy this story and even enjoy most of the family details. Seeing Emerson and his two brothers working together for a change is somehow satisfying. On the downside, Peters doesn't give quite the dose of archeology that I am used to and I found myself missing it. Also, although all of the Amelia Peabody stories are a little over the top, the 'plan' that the criminals are working on this time seems more than a little off. Surely they wouldn't rationally do everything they do here--essentially inviting Amelia and family to investigate them--if their motivation is as described. CHILDREN OF THE STORM is definitely not the book to acquaint new readers with the Elizabeth Peters universe.
Before commenting on this novel, let me observe that it would be an unhappy error to begin the 15 book Amelia Peabody series with Children of the Storm. You would have a very hard time keeping track of all the characters and the mystery's solution would be totally invisible to you before the solution is revealed. You would probably rate this a one or two star book.
My rating assumes that you have read at least the last 8 novels in the series.
The setting and cast of characters are a major shift from the books in the series set during World War I. With the War to End All Wars having ended, all of the Emerson clan (and I do mean ALL) come together in Children of the Storm. Ramses and Nefret are now parents of active two-year-old twins, so the family has also expanded into a third generation. Those with faulty memories will appreciate the Editor's Note which describes who all these people are and how they are related.
The book opens in Luxor with Cyrus Vandergelt concerned about how much of his large archeological find involving four princesses will have to be presented to the Cairo Museum. The Emersons are working on a messy site with seemingly limited potential which looters and poorly disciplined archeologists have ravaged in the past. M. Lacau from the Department of Antiquities arrives to inspect the Vandergelt artifacts and mummies. Soon he will choose what will remain in Egypt. Consternation reigns when "reformed" antiquities thief, Signor Martinelli, disappears as do several of the best pieces of ancient jewelry. The Emersons vow to recover the jewelry before M. Lacau discovers it is missing. Their search takes them to Cairo where Ramses responds to a note offering a warning only to find himself abducted, drugged and manipulated by a beautiful young woman dressed as the Veiled Goddess Hathor. As the mystery develops, there are mysterious deaths, attacks on individuals, sabotage of conveyances and a reappearance of Hathor in Luxor! Amelia and the rest of the clan are more than usually puzzled. They cannot see a pattern in what purpose could lie behind the baffling activities. When the pattern becomes clear, there's deadly danger to overcome and an exciting finish!
Children of the Storm is exceptional from two perspectives. First, the title captures a myriad of meanings in the context of the story that will enrich your appreciation of the story. Nicely done! Second, I cannot think of a novel that weaves so many characters and story lines together with accuracy and meaning. It must be like carrying the world on your shoulders to plot and develop this complex a story. And it works.
Some things are lost in the process. The story often feels over peopled. This requires a lot of development to fit everyone together in a meaningful way. This development sometimes feels bulky. In addition, a third of the book's length is caught up with details of day-to-day life like looking after for the children, arranging work schedules to appease Emerson, organizing Nefret's clinic in Luxor, and dealing with Emerson's latest toy. The mystery itself would have required about 250 pages, and would have been a page turner. The mystery feels diluted amidst all of this detail of daily life.
The Emersons focus on domesticity also limits the amount of detecting they do compared to earlier novels. So you get less of Emerson's investigative derring-do in Cairo, fewer forays by Amelia on her own, and limited searching by Ramses and David. Sethos plays his mildest role yet even though he is involved throughout the book.
As a result, much of the material in the book feels more like The Forsythe Saga than an early Amelia Peabody thriller. In fact, the book almost felt like a whole new genre . . . the three-generation extended family as detective.
A bright light to look out for in future novels is that the twins seem destined to be very interesting characters which may ignite all of this clan expansion into something more exciting.
After you finish this book, think about how you balance your family, your friends, your work, and your personal interests. How could you make them more positively integrated?
on April 27, 2003
Children of the Storm continues the adventures of the archeologist and investigator Amelia Emerson and her family. This story, the fifteenth in the series, opens in Egypt in 1919 after the close of World War I. Although the Great War has come to an end, the dangers that surround the Emerson family show no sign of ending.
Within the vividly depicted context of Egyptian dissatisfaction with British rule, a series of mysterious occurrences begin to trouble individuals close to Amelia. Thefts, murder and peculiar encounters with a mysterious woman set the heroine on a mission to solve the riddle buries within layers of intrigue.
This latest addition to the series introduces new characters, most notably two year old twin grandchildren of Amelia, while retaining familiar ones that fans will be happy to see return. However, new readers may find this a difficulty, as there are fourteen previous books for many complicated relationships to be developed, a number of which play a role in this novel. A prologue attempts to provide a thumbnail sketch of this history, but as a new reader, I found it most valuable as reference material.
With an intricate plot and likable characters, this novel is an enjoyable read. Fans of the series will likely find it more than enjoyable as they will have a familiarity with the world created by Ms Peters that those readers new to the series will not possess. On the other hand, the history that exists within these books provides a depth to the plot and character interactions that may not otherwise exist.
All in all, Children of the Storm is sure to find a spot on bestseller lists sometime this summer. And this is a book ideal for summer reading.
on April 15, 2003
Elizabeth Peters has so firmly established a place in my heart as the Mistress of Mystery that I find it hard to write a review without sounding over-effusive in my praise! A word of caution: I advise the Reader to first read at least "The Golden One" and "Lord of the Silent" before reading this; unfamiliarity with the Emerson clan and their far-flung acquaintances (friendly and not-so) will leave you dizzy and rather confused with the intricacies of the plot here. But to continue:
Following the tradition of (frustratingly) leaving (tremendously interesting and, one knows, adventure-packed) time gaps between books, "Children of the Storm" picks up two years after "The Golden One" left off. The Great War is finally ended, and at last the Emersons may return to their (rarely!) peaceable archaeological explorations. The entire Emerson clan, now quite large and quite vocal and spanning three generations, are reunited, with the result being that the Reader feels like he (or she) is amongst old friends. This is not without some tinges of nostalgia: all our beloved characters, from the charming Ramses to the inimitable Amelia, are not suspended in time and must grow older, choosing the paths they will take and ineluctably leaving other paths not taken. The effects are as realistic as they are bittersweet.
As Readers of "The Golden One" will know, Ramses and Nefret were at the end of that volume expecting a child. This turned out to be a feignt: Ms. Peters has given the darling couple not one but TWO mischief-makers to keep track of. Two-year-old toddlers are a challenge anyplace, but in the midst of Egyptology and intrigue provide an especially frightening prospect. Ramses and Nefret make excellent parents, although whilst I do enjoy the scenes of domesticity (though tranquil is hardly the case with young children!), I find myself rather missing their status as newlyweds...as does Ramses! Emerson, however, is absolutely endearing as a grandfather: as loud and irascible as always, but charmingly affectionate putty in the hands of the small ones.
The adventure begins, as always, with a theft and a death or two and several shirts ruined. There is also the requisite abduction of an Emerson and the extravagant plotting of arch-nemeses. To say more than this will be to give the intricately plotted and exquisitely delivered story away, and I refuse to cheat the Reader so. (One side-note that I can't help but declare in delight: we finally learn Sethos' real name!!)
I was almost glad to be relieved of the war business: the greater part of the strength and delight of the Peabody mysteries was always the Egyptology that bound the family together, and this volume carries it on with aplomb. The last several novels have been rather nostalgic, even wistful, in their style, and I fear that the series is winding down towards a final conclusion, for there are very few loose ends to tie up and the beloved characters are all growing older. I do hope for at least two more novels (with the alarming revelation about Ramses' children on the last page, I see delicious prospects for continuation) but will be glad of what I am allowed - any Emerson is better than none!
One cannot help, whilst reading this, but to long for those days, real or partly-imagined, when innocence was oft forgotten but not wholly lost, where real romance meant more than simply sex, and where the strength of family affection was more potent than any villain's hatred or attempts at terror. I think this is the thing that makes me love this series most: the truth of emotion in them. Ms. Peters gives armchair adventurers their share of action, but doesn't fail to deliver a rousing tale of family, loyalty, love, and hate. These qualities are in all of us, of all colours and races and creeds, and that is what strikes so deep a chord with me. She has captured the essence of people themselves, and for that, I think Elizabeth Peters will be "The Golden One" of mystery for a very, very long time.
~ Reviewed by Megan Stoner