The Falcon at the Portal (Amelia Peabody Series #11)

( 43 )


The Land of the Pharaohs harbors more secrets than any tomb can hide.

In Egypt for the 1911 archaeological season, Amelia Peabody and her family are not anticipating trouble, but it finds them nonetheless. Their young friend David is accused of selling ancient artifacts, and it's up to the Emersons to expose the real culprit. But the body of an American discovered at the bottom of their excavation shaft and a child of mysterious antecedents are sparking twin crises that threaten...

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The Falcon at the Portal (Amelia Peabody Series #11)

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The Land of the Pharaohs harbors more secrets than any tomb can hide.

In Egypt for the 1911 archaeological season, Amelia Peabody and her family are not anticipating trouble, but it finds them nonetheless. Their young friend David is accused of selling ancient artifacts, and it's up to the Emersons to expose the real culprit. But the body of an American discovered at the bottom of their excavation shaft and a child of mysterious antecedents are sparking twin crises that threaten to tear the family apart. Amelia brings her estimable powers of deduction to bear, but she might not survive long enough to unravel more than one perplexing puzzle—because suddenly someone is shooting bullets in her direction . . . and coming too close for comfort!

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Somebody'll have to come up with a new thesaurus. We're running out of synonyms to praise Elizabeth Peters with. Or, with which to praise Elizabeth Peters, if you're a stickler about such things. To make it clear: The Falcon at the Portal may just be the best Amelia Peabody yet.

A trek to Egypt. Archaeological trip. Good times being had by all until a new family member of the Peabody brood is accused of peddling fraudulent artifacts. What is going on here? I watch every Discovery Channel and History Channel episode on Egypt. If I weren't so lazy, I'd also spend a lot of reading time on the subject. But nobody brings Egypt alive quite like Elizabeth Peters. Maybe it's the lively, scorpion-tongued way she retells the history of the region, managing to create a perfect mix of mood, melodrama, and a certain sardonic skepticism about the land she so clearly loves.

In this novel, the accusation of fraud against the new in-law leads to all sorts of intrigue, both foreign and domestic, and gives Peters the opportunity to create a constantly shifting landscape that is, by turns, beautiful, ageless, and devastatingly cruel and treacherous. She also charts the struggle of Egypt to come to terms with this century, a fascinating subject in itself.

With The Falcon at the Portal, Peters proves yet again that she is in the first rank of mystery storytellers.

Ed Gorman

Jill M. Smith
This marks another splendid chapter in the hugely popular and always thrilling Amelia Peabody adventure series. In his book, a number of prominent characters make decisions that will make future episodes all the more interesting. Long live Amelia!
Romantic Times
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Peters draws all the elements together with trademark wit and a new note of poignancy...raise a toast to the incomparable Amelia Peabody.
New York Times Book Review
...between Amelia Peabody and Indiana Jones, it's Amelia—in wit and daring—by a landslide.
New York Times Book Review
...between Amelia Peabody and Indiana Jones, it's Amelia—in wit an daring—by a landslide.
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Peters draws all the elements together with trademark wit and a new note of poignancy...raise a toast to the incomparable Amelia Peabody.
Library Journal
Fake artifacts, dead bodies, and a mysterious child demand Amelia Peabody's attention in her latest.
Kirkus Reviews
Professor and Amelia Emerson (The Ape Who Guards the Balance, 1999, etc.) are once again in Egypt, this time for the winter season of 1911, accompanied by son Ramses and adopted daughter Nefret. Amelia is busy with the wedding of her niece Lia to David, grandson of the Emersons' late, dearly loved steward Abdullah, who was rumored to possess a cache of fine antiquities. Now, it seems, scarabs (possibly fake) and other objects from that cache are in circulation, and David is rumored to be involved. He and Lia set off on their honeymoon as their friends Jack and Maude Reynolds arrive at the colony. Maude promptly falls in love with Ramses, pursuing him at every turn. Work has finally begun on the project: exploration of the Pyramid at Zawaiet el'Aryan and the Professor's focus for the season. Nefret, meanwhile, has married the Reynolds's friend Geoffrey Godwin. Already at the Pyramid there have been several frightening incidents, quickly climaxed by the death of Maude Reynolds. All this is but the beginning of a series of plot zigs and zags interspersed with lengthy domestic detail, rumors of drug dealing and rising nationalism, everything leading to a melodramatic and violent denouement that sheds little light on an ever more muddled story. Well-realized time and place; interesting, lively characters; and incomprehensible plot. ($150,000 ad/promo; author tour)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061951640
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/23/2010
  • Series: Amelia Peabody Series, #11
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 576
  • Sales rank: 276,709
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 1.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Peters

Elizabeth Peters earned her Ph.D. in Egyptology from the University of Chicago's famed Oriental Institute. She was named Grand Master at the inaugural Anthony Awards in 1986 and Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 1998. In 2003, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Malice Domestic Convention. She lives in a historic farmhouse in western Maryland.


Neither the Great Depression nor the lack of a public library in her small hometown of Canton, Illinois, deterred Barbara Mertz (the future Elizabeth Peters) from becoming an avid reader. Yet, when her family moved to a suburb of Chicago, she was elated to discover the riches contained in the town's local library and proceeded to devour every book she could get her hands on. She began writing in high school; but by that time she had already decided to become an archaeologist.

Mertz received a scholarship to the University of Chicago, which boasted a world-famous Egyptology department. Her mother, an eminently practical soul, encouraged her daughter to become a teacher; but after taking only two education courses, Mertz knew a career in the classroom was not for her. Determined to follow her dream, she moved over to the university's Oriental Institute, and received her Ph.D. in Egyptology at the age of 23.

The post-WWII job market wasn't kind to women in general, much less to women seeking careers in archaeology. Mertz married and began a family, but never lost sight of her life's ambition. While she was raising her two children, she decided to try her hand at writing. Her first few attempts were never published, but they did land her an agent; and in 1964 she published her first book, Temples, Tombs and Hieroglyphs: A Popular History of Ancient Egypt.

Mertz authored two additional works on archaeology before foraying into fiction in 1966. The Master of Blacktower is the first of several gothic suspense novels written under the pseudonym Barbara Michaels. (In her biography, she explains that the use of pseudonyms helps readers to distinguish various types of books written by a single author.) The supernatural elements in the thrillers penned under the Michaels name have kept readers on the edge of their seats for decades.

In the 1970s, Mertz began writing under her second, more famous pseudonym, Elizabeth Peters. As Peters, she has authored books in three different series. Beginning in 1972 with The Seventh Sinner (1972), the first series features a glamorous librarian-turned-romance novelist named Jacqueline Kirby (the final Jacqueline Kirby mystery, Naked Once More, won a coveted Agatha Award in 1989). The second series, starring American art historian Vicky Bliss, debuted in 1973 with Borrower of the Night (Vicky's last outing was 2008's Laughter of Dead Kings). Then, in 1975, Peters introduced her most famous protagonist, archeologist/sleuth Amelia Peabody, in a dandy adventure entitled Crocodile on the Sandbank.

From the first, readers loved Amelia, a plucky Victorian feminist who—together with her husband, the distinguished Egyptologist Radcliffe Emerston—has gone on to solve countless mysteries in the Middle East. Peabody fans received an extra treat in 2003 with Amelia Peabody's Egypt: A Compendium to Her Journals, a nonfiction stroll through ancient Egypt that included nearly 600 photographs and illustrations, plus expert academic articles.

In addition to her three series, Mertz has written several standalone suspense novels as Elizabeth Peters. She has this to say about her successful, prolific career: "The craft of writing delights me. It is impossible to attain perfection; there is always something more to be learned—figuring out new techniques of plotting or characterization, struggling with recalcitrant sentences until I force them to approximate my meaning. And nothing is ever wasted. Everything one sees and hears, everything one learns, can be used."

Good To Know

The pseudonym Elizabeth Peters is taken from her two children, Elizabeth and Peter. She uses three pseudonyms so readers can tell the difference between the three types of books she writes: nonfiction archaeology as Barbara Mertz, supernatural thrillers as Barbara Michaels and historical mysteries as Peters. For the record, Mertz has called the pseudonyms "a horrible nuisance."
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    1. Also Known As:
      Barbara Mertz, Barbara Michaels
    2. Hometown:
      A farm in rural Maryland
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 29, 1927
    2. Place of Birth:
      Canton, Illinois
    1. Date of Death:
      August 8, 2013

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

They attacked at dawn. I woke instantly at the sound of pounding hooves, for I knew what it meant. The Beduin were on the warpath!

"What is it you find so amusing, my dear?" I inquired. Nefret looked up from her book. "I am sorry if I disturbed you, Aunt Amelia, but I couldn't help laughing. Did you know that Beduins go on the warpath? Wearing feathered headdresses and waving tomahawks, no doubt!"

The library of our house in Kent is supposed to be my husband's private sanctum, but it is such a pleasant room that all the members of the family tend to congregate there, especially in fine weather. Except for my son Ramses we were all there that lovely autumn morning; a cool breeze wafted through the wide windows that opened onto the rose garden, and sunlight brightened Nefret's gold-red hair.

Reclining comfortably upon the sofa, Nefret wore a sensible divided skirt and shirtwaist instead of a proper frock. She had become as dear as a daughter to us since we rescued her from the remote oasis in the Nubian Desert where she had spent the first thirteen years of her life, but despite my best efforts I had been unable to eradicate all the peculiar notions she had acquired there. Emerson claims some of those peculiar notions have been acquired from me. I do not consider a dislike of corsets and a firm belief in the equality of the female sex peculiar, but I must admit that Nefret's habit of sleeping with a long knife under her pillow might strike some as unusual. I could not complain of this, however, since our family does seem to have a habit of encountering dangerous individuals.

Hunched over his desk, Emerson let out a grunt, like a sleepybear that has been prodded by a stick. My distinguished husband, the greatest Egyptologist of all time, rather resembled a bear at that moment: his broad shoulders were covered by a hideous ill-fitting coat of prickly brown tweed (purchased one day when I was not with him) and his abundant sable locks were wildly disheveled. He was working on his report of our previous season's excavations and was in a surly mood for, as usual, he ad put the job off until the last possible moment and was behind schedule.

"Is that Percy's cursed book you are reading?" he demanded. "I thought I threw the damned thing onto the fire."

"You did." Nefret gave him a cheeky smile. Emerson is known as the Father of Curses by his admiring Egyptian workmen; his fiery temper and Herculean frame have made him feared throughout the length and breadth of Egypt. (Mostly the former, since as all educated persons know, Egypt is a very long narrow country.) However, none of those who know him well are at all intimidated by his growls, and Nefret had always been able to wind him round her slim fingers. I ordered another copy from London," she said calmly. "Aren't you at all curious about what he writes? He is your own nephew, after all."

"He is not my nephew." Emerson leaned back in his chair. "His father is your Aunt Amelia's brother, not mine. James is a hypocritical, sanctimonious, mendacious moron and his son is even worse."

Nefret chuckled. "What a string of epithets! I don't see how Percy could be worse."

"Ha!" said Emerson.

Emerson's eyes are the brilliant blue of a sapphire, and they become even more brilliant when he is in a temper. Any mention of a member of my family generally does put him in a temper, but on this occasion I could tell he was not averse to being interrupted. He stroked his prominent chin, which is adorned with a particularly handsome dent, or dimple, and looked at me.

Or, as a writer more given to clichés might say, our eyes locked. They often do, for my dear Emerson and I have shared one another's thoughts ever since that halcyon day when we agreed to join hearts, hands and lives in the pursuit of Egyptology. I seemed to see myself reflected in those sapphirine orbs, not (thank Heaven) as I really appear, but as Emerson sees me: my coarse black hair and steely gray eyes and rather too-rounded form transfigured by love into his ideal of female beauty. In addition to the affectionate admiration mirrored in his gaze, I saw as well a kind of appeal. He wanted me to be the one to sanction the interruption of his work.

I was not averse to being interrupted either. I had been busily scribbling for several hours, making lists of Things to Be Done and writing little messages to tradesmen. There were more things than usual to be done that particular year—not only the ordinary arrangements for our annual season of excavation in Egypt, but preparations for houseguests and for the forthcoming nuptials of two individuals near and dear to all of us. My fingers were cramped with writing, and if I must be entirely honest I will admit I had been somewhat annoyed with Emerson for burning Percy's book before I could have a look at it.

The only other one of the family present was David. Strictly speaking, he was not a member of the family, but he soon would be, for his marriage to my niece Lia would take place in a few weeks. That arrangement had caused quite a scandal when the announcement was first made. David was a purebred Egyptian, the grandson of our late, greatly lamented reis Abdullah; Lia was the daughter of Emerson's brother Walter, one of England's finest Egyptological scholars, and of my dear friend Evelyn, granddaughter of the Earl of Chalfont. The fact that David was a talented artist and a trained Egyptologist carried weight with people who considered all members of . . .

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 43 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 43 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 1999


    My god! What a novel, but why so much heartbreak?! I repeat this to myself, over and over and over, as I walked dazedly around the house wondering how I am going to wait six months for the next installment. Elizabeth, why are you doing this to us?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 9, 2012

    Series is highly recommended!!!

    I love the Amelia Peabody series. I've been to Egypt and now long to go back to experience many of the places she talks about. I love Peabody's relationship with Emerson and can't wait to see if Ramses gets the love of his life. Starting book #12 now...

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  • Posted October 28, 2011

    wonderful series

    There are 18 books in the series. I am now reading #10 for the third time.

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  • Posted January 12, 2011

    Great book

    I would recommend that the Amelia Peabody series is read in sequence. I read this book out of sequence and had to go back and re-read it in sequence. It was much more enjoyable when I re-read it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2004

    Great find

    Ditto. A great story, wonderful characters, but a very weak Nefret.....what a disappointment she was.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2004


    I have read all the reviews of this book on this site, and I have to admit, that this one (Falcon) and the last one (Ape) had me biting my nails! That is a good thing! I started reading the series last year, and have bought almost all of them, and the last two, I read as fast as I could! I love ALL the characters (even the bad ones add to the novels...of course, Sethos is one of my favorites!)and watching the maturity of the 'children' has kept me interested! I love how all of the characters are evolving, getting older, still maintaining the traits we all know and love, yet growing as they mature. Thanks to Elizabeth Peters for these great stories that take us to a wonderful place and time! As someone who loves to write fiction myself, I have learned alot from her writing, how to develop characters and keep readers interested! I have to go start reading 'He Shall Thunder The Sky'!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2004

    I Hated this One!!!!!

    The mystry was good but I was SO MAD AT NEFRET!!!!!!!!! I still don't like her and think that Ramses deserves some one better.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2002

    Despite Uncertainty, a Great Effort

    I should first say that I'm new to the Amelia Peabody series. FALCON is the second book I read (after THE APE WHO GUARDS THE BALANCE) and I thought that it was even better than APE. Some veterans of the series have remarked that the events in this book (especially the ones concerning Nefret) are out of place for this series, and while I admit that they could be right because I have little prior knowledge of the characters, I thought the events in question were a direct result of what happened, just as it would be in real life. I have never read any book that pulls the reader in quite like a Peabody mystery. While I am ecstatic about the descriptions of Egypt and archaeology (probably because I have decided on Egyptology as a career), there is another element in these books that just takes hold and won't let go. I like to call it 'total immersion' and it's lurking on page 1 in this book. Even with only one book under my belt, I feel a connection with the characters and as if I'm involved in the events. And this is one of those rare books that you like so much you can't put it down, but at the same time you appreciate the words instead of flying through them. Without giving too much away, I can say that with the return of Percy, the romantic tension between Nefret and Ramses stretches to the breaking point, and everything rockets from there. When all is said and done, you might be extremely frustrated and want to slap the two 'children'(and Amelia too, for that matter), but if you stop and think, Amelia's prowess is dull for a reason. Even a well-oiled machine like the Emerson family can grind to a halt if something breaks, so it's obvious that the renowed detective skills of the clan can't be so powerful when there's a distraction elsewhere. Just like any ol' family, huh? Yes, you can figure out the murderer before the Emersons, and yes the cliched 'big misunderstanding' element makes you want to scream at the pages in frustration, but there's a great story in between all of that. How can we complain if all the stuff is there, but with just a little touch of the real world mixed in? Strongly Recommended: Read The Ape Who Guards the Balance before this so you don't cheat yourself out of a great story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2001

    The Falcon at the Portal, More Than Just Corpses and Intrigue!

    In this latest volume of the Amelia Peabody series Elizabeth Peters returns to her traditional style of plots, archaeology, mysteries, romance, and of course, bodies! Only Elizabeth Peters with her well written dry humor and witty exchanges amongst the Emerson family, could possibly make mureder and perilous situations so entertaining. In this volume, Peters continoues the tantalizing romance between Ramses, the one blood relative of Amelia and her handsome husband Radcliffe, and Nefret, one of the foster children the Emersons adopted years ago. Since Ramses and Nefret are now fully grown, their relationship begins the metamorphosis we have all been waiting for. All of the activity of our favorite turn of the century British excavators comes to a screeching hault when two strangers show up with a young child they say is Ramses' daoughter, and Nefret disappears for several days, only to return married to a fellow archealogist also working in Eygpt that season. For all the Elizabeth Peters fans out there this book is a must have! I fnished it in a few days and absolutely had to read it's sequel 'He Shall Thunder in the Sky', because I was so intrigued by the events in 'The Falcon at the Portal'!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2000

    Ms. Peters has did it again.

    Another great story from someone who has entertained me for years. From the first book of Peabody that I read over 20 years ago, to this one I have adored the series and this one is a top notch read. I started with The Crocodile on the Sandbank and with this book I am still a fan of the hero and heroine. I look forward to each new offering from Ms. Peters...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2000

    please put Nefret and Ramses together!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I am also a teen thouroughly enveloped by Elizabeth Peter's ameilia peabody mysteries. I read one, and couldn't put it down, so i read more and I absolutely love them!!! BUT, Please Ms. Peters- i beg you-put Ramses and Nefret together. Nefret is so much like me and I believe she and Ramses deserve to be together. David and Lia are perfect and happy-so why shouldn't Nefret and Ramses be. other than this small detail, the book was ms. peters usual fast-paced thriller. I look forward to the next one!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2000

    WHAT A SHOCK! Well written, but not exactly what I had in mind!

    I should have realized that a series can't go on this long without having something happen to totally surprise the reader, and keep him/her from being complacent about characters! I have been an avid Amelia Peabody fan for over 15 years. I admit, in these later books, Amelia herself seems to be lapsing into a less formidable character than we have been familiar with, but I think that is a necessity in order to allow room for the character development of Ramses, Nefret, and David. The Falcon at the Portal was rather a shock, as far as plot. I am very grateful to have had the reviews to read first, as I was somewhat prepared for the events in the book. Had I not been so prepared, I might have thrown the book out the window at certain points! However, I do feel that it was worth reading, and I am certainly anxiously awaiting the next book in the saga. Note to Elizabeth Peters: Enough already! Will you make Nefret & Ramses sit down and be HONEST with each other? They seem to have a bit of a problem with that! Other than this criticism, my hat is off to you for keeping my interest TOTALLY peaked throughout your entire series. And THANK YOU for the kitten (I am hoping we will see it in the next book!), and for giving Horus a new interest in life. Perhaps he will be of some use afterall.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2000

    Not always happy, but well plotted and mature

    I discovered the Amelia Peabody books just after Christmas this year, and had acquired and devoured the first ten books within a month. This story was the only one for which I had seen any reviews before reading -- I was afraid I wouldn't like it, but that was definitely not the case. I might not have liked this story as well when I was younger, but even though there are sad parts, it ends hopefully, and it feels more true to life than a sappy happy ending would have. I thought Nephret's actions were in keeping with the way her character had developed -- impulsive, passionate in her loves and hates, with strong feelings about men who frequented 'ladies of the evening' and fathered illegitimate children. She was in the intensely emotional mood that came from suddenly realizing she and Ramses loved each other -- in that state, thinking he had done things she detested, her impulsive action to reject Ramses seems believable to me. I can also see her marriage, since there was a chance she could be pregnant, and she would not have wanted to shame her family - very realistic for this time period. Once married, it was too late to undo, without bringing more shame and heartache to those she cared about. I would like to see this experience helping Nefret to be more in control of her temper and less impulsive, two flaws in her character that always bothered me. She has the chance to mature now, and be a good partner in a marriage, whether it is with Ramses or not.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2000

    What happened to Nephret?

    This latest installment began well. It promised all of the usual fun and adventures of the Emerson family, but came up short. Nephret was such a promising character and the blossomming romance with Ramses was absolutely perfect. Ms. Peters teased us and disappointed us with her treatment of Nephret. She could never have become selfish and childish enough to run off and marry some random person. Many of the developments with Ramses were encouraging, but Nephret's total turn-around brought down the rest of the book. I would recommend it only to keep up with the Peabodys. It seemed that Amelia and Emerson had become background figures. Maybe it is time fo a spinoff Ramses Emerson series or something of the sort. He is becoming much more interesting and Amelia is fading into comfortable old age, which is rather disappointing. I hope this was only an abberration and Ms. Peters brings back the characters we all know and love.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2000


    I am a young teenage reader of Ms. Peters work, and I must say that this book is one of my new pet peeves, I was completely excited when nefret finally found out about Ramses, but than when she got married, and miscarried! What a horrible plunge. I am still mulling it over in my mind. Also Sennia, I couldn't really connect with the little girl, it might of been because of the fuzziness in my mind after I read the ending.Ms. Peters, I really hope you do better on your next book, please let it be in Egypt and not all based on WW1, an Nefret better get better soon, or else you are going to loose a lot of readers. Please email me to discuss this book or any other

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    Posted January 27, 2012

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    Posted October 12, 2009

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    Posted April 1, 2012

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    Posted October 14, 2009

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