The Laughter of Dead Kings (Vicky Bliss Series #6) [NOOK Book]


For the first time in more than a decade, New York Times bestselling Grand Master Elizabeth Peters brings beautiful, brainy Vicky Bliss back into the spotlight for one last investigation. But this time the peerless art historian and sleuth will be detecting in Amelia Peabody territory, searching for solutions to more than one heinous offense in the ever-shifting sands of Egypt's mysterious Valley of the Kings.

Who stole one of Egypt's most priceless treasures? That is the ...

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The Laughter of Dead Kings (Vicky Bliss Series #6)

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For the first time in more than a decade, New York Times bestselling Grand Master Elizabeth Peters brings beautiful, brainy Vicky Bliss back into the spotlight for one last investigation. But this time the peerless art historian and sleuth will be detecting in Amelia Peabody territory, searching for solutions to more than one heinous offense in the ever-shifting sands of Egypt's mysterious Valley of the Kings.

Who stole one of Egypt's most priceless treasures? That is the question that haunts the authorities after a distinguished British gentleman with an upper-crust accent cons his way past a security guard and escapes into the desert carrying a world-famous, one-of-a-kind historic relic. But the Egyptian authorities and Interpol believe they know the identity of the culprit. The brazen crime bears all the earmarks of the work of one “Sir John Smythe,” the suave and dangerously charming international art thief who is, in fact, John Tregarth, the longtime significant other of Vicky Bliss. But John swears he is retired—not to mention innocent—and he vows to clear his name by hunting down the true criminal.

Vicky's faith in her man's integrity leaves her no choice but to take a hiatus from her position at a leading Munich museum and set out for the Middle East. Vicky's employer, the eminent Herr Doktor Anton Z. Schmidt, rotund gourmand and insatiable adventurer, decides to join the entourage.

But dark days and myriad dangers await them in this land of intriguing antiquity. Each uncovered clue seems to raise even more questions for the intrepid Vicky—the most troubling being, Where is John going during his increasingly frequent and unexplained absences? And the stakes are elevated considerably when a ransom note arrives accompanied by a grisly memento intended to speed up negotiations—because now it appears that murder most foul has been added to the equation.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

New York Times best-selling author Peters ( completes her Vicky Bliss series with this sixth title (following Night Train to Memphis), in which the art historian and her longtime love work to clear his name of the theft of the mummy of King Tut. Vicky's wit and spirit, along with engaging descriptions of Egyptian sights, combine to draw in even those new to the series. Audie® Award-winning narrator Barbara Rosenblat's ( portrayal of Vicky is just as important to this wholly satisfying production. Her ability to inhabit the characters and her facility with dialects, accents, and emotions are singular. An essential purchase for public libraries. [Audio clip available through; the William Morrow hc received a starred review, LJ7/08.-Ed.]
—Melody A. Moxley

Kirkus Reviews
Munich-based art historian and amateur sleuth Vicky Bliss (Night Train to Memphis, 1994, etc.) returns after a long hiatus to answer the burning question: Who would dare steal the mummy of King Tut?Vicky and her longtime lover John Tregarth, formerly known as high-end thief Sir John Smythe, are dragged into the search for the stolen mummy by their Egyptian friend Feisal, who's desperate to recover it. Well-known for his expertise in bold thefts, John is high on everyone's list of suspects. Even Vicky and her wealthy, eccentric boss Schmidt can't be certain he isn't somehow involved. Their efforts to prove John innocent take them to London, Italy and eventually Egypt's Valley of the Kings, as both thieves and law-enforcement agents eagerly trail them. When the tomb keeper, the only other person who knew about the theft, is found murdered, the sleuths are forced to take Feisal's cousin Dr. Khifaya, secretary general in charge of antiquities, into their confidence. Soon a ransom note and one of Tut's hands arrive for Khifaya, whose efforts to deal with the situation on his own are doomed to failure. As Vicky and Schmidt hatch scheme after scheme to recover the mummy, John calmly conducts his own investigation, often disappearing for long periods of time. Despite all the madcap misadventures, good eventually triumphs. An over-the-top adventure yarn whose potent brew of mystery and romance should make it another hit among the Peters (Tomb of the Golden Bird, 2006, etc.) faithful.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061835179
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Series: Vicky Bliss Series, #6
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 79,749
  • File size: 520 KB

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

The Laughter of Dead Kings LP
A Vicky Bliss Novel of Suspense

By Elizabeth Peters
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2008

Elizabeth Peters
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061668289

Chapter One

I cover my ears, I close my eyes,

Still I hear your voice, and it's tellin' me lies . . .

My singing doesn't inspire thousands of fans to emit screams of delight, but I was a trifle hurt when my dog jumped up with a howl and streaked for the stairs. Usually he likes my singing. He's the only one who does like my singing. Otherwise his hearing is pretty good.

John was coming down the stairs. He halted Caesar's headlong rush with a peremptory order—something I've never succeeded in doing—and sauntered toward me.

I hadn't seen him for two weeks. My toes went numb. He was wearing a blue shirt that matched his eyes and those of the Siamese cat draped over his shoulder. One of his hands supported Clara's front end, his long fingers as elegantly shaped as the small seal-brown paws they held. Clara had not cared much for John at first, but he had set out to win her feline heart (the alternative being bites and scratches) and he had succeeded, with the aid of frequent offerings of chicken. They looked sensational together. He looked sensational.

So I said grumpily, "Right on cue. Why can't you come in the front door like normal people instead of climbing up to my bedroom window?"

"Itbrings back such fond memories."

Memories of the time when Interpol and a variety of competing crooks had been looking for him and the art treasures he had made off with. He was now a respectable antiquities dealer, if I could believe him. Which I probably shouldn't. Tellin' me lies had been one of his favorite activities.

I picked up the grubby wad of white yarn and the crochet hook precariously attached to it, which I had dropped onto my lap, and pretended to study it. Playing it cool, so as not to be beguiled by the winsome smile and melting blue eyes. Damn him, he hadn't showed up for two damned weeks. London is less than two hours from Munich by air. I should know, I'd made the trip often enough. Thanks to an indulgent boss I could get away from my job at the museum more easily than John could get away from his antiques business. Or so he claimed. Tellin' me lies?

"So how's business?" I inquired.

No answer. A thud and a loud Siamese complaint made me look up. Clara was on her feet—at HIS feet, glaring at him, and John was . . . not glaring . . . staring at me with a look of glazed disbelief. No, not at me. At the misshapen object I held.

"What is it?" he croaked.

"You needn't be so rude," I said defensively. "It's a baby cap. I'm not very good at crochet, but I'll figure it out eventually."

John staggered to the nearest chair and collapsed into it. He was white as a sheet, a lot whiter than the mangled little cap, which had suffered from Clara's occasional attempts to play with it.

"What the hell is the matter with you?" I demanded. "Bob—you know, my brother Bob—his new wife is expecting her first and I thought it would be a nice gesture if I . . . if I . . ."

He let out a long gasp of air, and then it hit me. Like a sock in the solar plexus.

"Aaah," I said. "Aha. Sometimes I am so slow. Is that what you thought? That is what you thought! Not only that I was about to become a mummy but that I—wait a minute, it's coming, I'll get it eventually—that I had got myself pregnant in order to trap you into unholy wedlock. And the very idea made you sick! You low-down skunk! You son of a bitch! I'll bet your mother has been hinting for months, 'Watch out for that worthless trollop, she'll try to—' "

"Vicky!" His voice is usually a mellifluous tenor, but he can outshout me when he has to, and believe me, he had to. He jumped up and came toward me. I threw the baby cap, complete with crochet hook, at him. He ducked. The ball of yarn rolled off the couch and Clara went in pursuit. John grabbed me by the shoulders.

"Stop yelling and listen to me."

"You did, didn't you? Believe it."

"Believe what? That you'd be dim enough to pull an antiquated stunt like that one? Never in my wildest fantasies. But you must admit my initial impression was justified by the evidence available to me at the time."

"Stop talking like a lawyer. It wasn't what you thought, it was your reaction. The very idea terrified you. You looked as if you were about to pass out."


I was gearing up for a loud, satisfying fight, but that quiet-voiced confession took the wind out of my sails. The best I could come up with was a feeble "So you admit it."

"I may be all the things you called me and more, but I'm not so complacent as to be blind to the consequences of my own misdeeds. Bloody hell, Vicky, I'm terrified all the time! Admittedly I'm one of the world's most flagrant cowards, but I'm also afraid for you. There are a lot of people in the big bad world who hate my guts and who harbor grudges." The words came spilling out, his face was flushed and his fingers bit into my skin. "When we agreed to be together, I tried to talk you out of it. I put you in danger simply by associating with you. But as you pointed out with considerable eloquence, you were an adult and it was your choice. You convinced me against my better judgment, and the few remaining shreds of my conscience. How do you suppose I felt, for one ghastly moment, when I thought there might be another hostage to fortune, a helpless, totally vulnerable, completely innocent potential victim of my various sins? The people I'm referring to wouldn't feel the slightest compunction about using a child to get back at me—and you."


Excerpted from The Laughter of Dead Kings LP by Elizabeth Peters
Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth Peters. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 25 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2008

    A reviewer

    The ¿Inspector of Antiquities for all Upper Egypt¿ Feisal arrives at the Munich National Museum to visits assistant curator American expatriate Vicky Bliss. She welcomes her friend who has come so far since THE NIGHT TRAIN TO MEMPHIS caper, but is shocked to see him so far from his beloved Egypt and coming to Germany without telling her. He asks to see her lover antiquities dealer John Tregarth.--------------- Feisal informs John and Vicky that someone stole King Tut¿s mummy from the tomb in the Valley of Kings pyramid. Based on evidence, the Egyptian police believe strongly that notorious art thief Sir John Smythe is the thief. Stunned as Tregarth was once Smythe, but no longer steals anything they begin investigating knowing they will risk Egypt to find the real culprit and return Tut to his resting place----------------------- After too long a wait, Elizabeth Peters fans will welcome the return of the statuesque amateur sleuth who along with her British lover and their Egyptian friend try to prove Sir Smythe is retired and someone else is imitating his M.O. The story line is fun to follow as the connection to Amelia Peabody is obvious with the tour of Egypt that follows in her historical footsteps, which in many ways dominates the plot over the investigation. Readers will enjoy the blissful return of Vicky and John as they struggle to stay alive and out of jail long enough to prove his innocence.---------------- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2009

    The travel to and from work was much more enjoyable while listening to this book. I couldn't wait to get started in the morning or to finish work in the evening, so I could find out what was happening next in the story.

    I enjoyed the story as well as the characters. I drive 45min. to work every day, so I look for books on tape as a change from the radio. I enjoy this author very much. I read a book of her's last year and then mailed it to my daughter. I bought another of her books when I purchased this book on cd and can't wait to start reading.

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  • Posted November 2, 2008

    Guess I expected more like Amelia Peabody in style

    I did read "Night Train to Memphis" long ago and enjoyed it, I think. I am a great fan of the Amelia Peabody series, but this just couldn't keep my interest.<BR/>I found Vicky shallow and her relationships weird, the "mystery" wasn't that hard to figure out and the ending flat for me. Maybe I was just expecting something different. Thought it would be fun to read as we are going to Egypt in a few months.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2008

    Worth the wait

    Loved the way MS Peters weaved the story and delighted to learn John Tegarth ancestry. A nice twist.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2008

    Elizabeth Peters does it again!

    As an avid reader of the Vicky Bliss series I was delighted at the annoucement of yet another book following the amateur slueth. Once again I found myself glued to every page of this wonderfully clever book. I highly recommend this 'Laughter of Dead Kings' for anyone who enjoys a good mystery with a dash of romance and a pinch of humor.

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