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The Jackal's Head

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Overview

Althea Tomlinson's ostensible reason for returning to Egypt is to chaperone a spoiled teenager through this fabulous desert land. The truth is more complex . . . and dangerous. Ten years ago, something that happened here brought about her father's ruin and subsequent death—and Althea intends to clear her disgraced parent's name and finally lay a dark past to rest. But there are some mysteries best left buried in the shifting sands, and a devoted daughter's search for answers is stirring up forgotten memories ...

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The Jackal's Head

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Overview

Althea Tomlinson's ostensible reason for returning to Egypt is to chaperone a spoiled teenager through this fabulous desert land. The truth is more complex . . . and dangerous. Ten years ago, something that happened here brought about her father's ruin and subsequent death—and Althea intends to clear her disgraced parent's name and finally lay a dark past to rest. But there are some mysteries best left buried in the shifting sands, and a devoted daughter's search for answers is stirring up forgotten memories almost too painful to endure, that propel her onward among ancient tombs, legendary treasures, miraculous discoveries . . . and ever-closer to her own threatened doom.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Elizabeth Peters is truly great!"—San Francisco Chronicle
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062087782
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/28/2012
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,027,174
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.80 (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.

Biography

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



"Scarab, lady, ten piasters, very cheap, lucky scarab, come from king's tomb, very old, very cheap! Scarab, lady, lucky scarab... Six piasters?"

The price always comes down if the customer doesn't respond. I kept right on walking, ignoring the peddler who trotted alongside me, his grubby black-and-white-striped robe flapping around his bare heels. It was hard to ignore the scarab, since this very small businessman was waving it right under my nose. But I managed not to look at it. I didn't have to look at it. I knew it wasn't worth six piasters, or even six cents. It didn't come from a king's tomb, it wasn't lucky (what is?), and it wasn't very old. Probably about twenty-four hours old.

"Wait a minute, Althee-a. You're going too fast again. And I wanna look at this stuff."

That awful whine again! For five long days I had been listening to Dee complain. From Idlewild to Orly, through the salons of half the famous couturiers of Paris, from Orly to Fiumicino, through more salons, from Fiumicino to Cairo, from Cairo to Luxor. From there to eternity, it seemed.

I glanced at the girl, and the sight of her did nothing to relieve my annoyance. She was a spoiled mess, from her bleached hair, now wilting into wisps under the impact of Upper Egyptian heat, to her padded figure crammed into clothing that was too new, too expensive, and too tight. There was a jarring note in the general picture of uncouth youth -- the unwieldy plaster cast and the crutches.

I stopped walking, feeling like a heel -- and resenting the poor little wretcheven more because she made me feel like a heel.

"Sorry, Dee. I was just...I'm sorry. Where's your father? Isn't he meeting us?"

Dee shrugged. I gathered that she meant the gesture as a negative reply to my question, but it was hardly necessary. The air-terminal building was emptying rapidly as our fellow passengers from the Cairo-Luxor plane headed for waiting taxis and buses. There was no one present who corresponded to the picture I had formed of Dee's father -- a man of middle age, since Dee admitted to seventeen years, a wealthy man, since he could afford to indulge his daughter in Parisian frocks and a companion -- me -- to nurse the cast and crutches from New York to Egypt. There was nobody there but just us tourists and the horde of insatiable peddlers, swarming like big black-and-white flies over every chunk of human flesh. An unattractive simile, I had to admit. But I was not in an attractive mood. Ever since we touched down on Egyptian soil my insides had been feeling faintly queasy, and the feeling got worse the farther south we came.

I turned back to Dee after my survey of the building to find that her open interest had attracted a particularly insistent crowd of the black-and-white robes.

"Scarab, lady, five piasters! Come from king's tomb, bring much luck..."

Our own original peddler had managed to press his wares into Dee's hands. That, as all good peddlers know, is half the battle. Dee grinned, and held the scarab out for my inspection. It was the usual oval, about an inch and a half long. The dull blue-green surface was roughly cut into the stylized beetle shape, and the underside had some crude scratches which were meant to be hieroglyphic writing.

"It's a fake," I said -- too loudly, too emphatically. With the word the sensation of queasy discomfort that had haunted me coalesced into a stab of almost physical pain.

Surprised by my near-shout, Dee stared at me.

"What's the matter? You look absolutely green. Sun got you already?"

"I guess so... Let's find a taxi before they're all taken. Your father must be meeting us at the hotel."

"Okay, okay." She was good-natured. I had to admit that. She handed the scarab back to its reluctant owner and batted her artificial lashes at him. Sorry, buster. No sale.

"Yes, yes, you buy!" The peddler's voice rose to a heartrending shriek. "Four piasters only! Lady, you buy, you say you buy--"

I wasn't thinking. I cut him short with one curt Arabic phrase. It was almost worth the blunder to hear his outraged shriek fade into a gurgle of surprise. Almost.

"Hotel Winter Palace," I told the taxi driver, and busied myself easing Dee and her cast into the cab. Mentally I was cursing myself, in both English and Arabic. I hadn't been in Luxor for five minutes and already I had made my first mistake. After all the effort I had gone through to turn myself into just another tourist...

As the taxi bumped off down the road in a cloud of dust, I took out my compact. My nose actually did need powdering, but that wasn't what worried me. I needed to reassure myself that my new face looked as different as I meant it to.

It wasn't a disguise -- nothing so crude as that. It was protective coloring, a frightened animal's defense against predatory enemies. Nature helps the hunted animals, but I had to help myself. I had widened my mouth with lipstick, turned my hazel eyes brown through a careful selection of eye makeup. The most effective change of coloration was the one I had applied to my hair I couldn't do much about the style; my hair is too thick and curly for any but the simplest of short cuts. But I had been a brunette for twenty-five years, and the new ash-blond curls looked startling.

Forty dollars worth of peroxide, a new lipstick, and a kit labeled "Eye Magic" -- that was the new Althea Tomlinson. Probably even that small effort had been unnecessary After all, none of them...

The Jackal's Head. Copyright © by Elizabeth Peters. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

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( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 10 of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2012

    Fun and Fast Mystery

    I first read The Jackal's Head many years ago. I had forgotten most of the plot, but I remembered that I had enjoyed it.

    The story did not disappoint the second time around. Fun characters, an ancient mystery, a lost treasure -- it's all here.

    Recommended to fans of PC Doherty and Lyn Hamilton.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 16, 2012

    Worth the read

    I'm a huge Peters fan, especially her Amelia Peabody series. But I've also enjoyed her other on offs or mini series. She's a fun author to follow.
    This particular book may follow familiar Peters' lines but it still is a good read.

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    Posted January 4, 2010

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    Posted June 29, 2012

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