Hess's delightful 17th Claire Malloy mystery (after 2007's Damsels in Distress) pays tribute to the Egyptian novels of Elizabeth Peters, the pseudonym of Barbara Mertz, to whom the book is dedicated. Claire has at long last married her cop boyfriend, Peter Rosen, and they are ostensibly on their honeymoon in Luxor, Egypt, accompanied by Claire's daughter, Caron, and Caron's best friend, Inez. Peter, however, is often called away on mysterious meetings with Egyptian police, and Claire and the girls are left to their own devices. Odd things start happening: the girls claim they're being followed by a sinister Arab with a scar, a young American woman is kidnapped in the desert, and murders dog an archeological expedition. Hess throws into this heady mix a deliciously eccentric cast of supporting characters, including one Lady Amelia Peabody Emerson, reputed to be the descendant of famous English archeologists. Manipulating everything with a practiced hand, Hess concludes the story in a manner worthy of Hercule Poirot in the classic Death on the Nile. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Mummy Dearest (Claire Malloy Series #17)by Joan Hess
In the ancient Land of the Pharaohs
Claire Malloy—a single, widowed mother of a teenage daughter and a bookseller in Farberville, Arkansas—has finally said ‘I do’ to her swain, Peter Rosen of the local police department. Now they are on their honeymoon in Luxor, Egypt. Well, Claire is on her honeymoon, accompanied by her/i>/b>
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In the ancient Land of the Pharaohs
Claire Malloy—a single, widowed mother of a teenage daughter and a bookseller in Farberville, Arkansas—has finally said ‘I do’ to her swain, Peter Rosen of the local police department. Now they are on their honeymoon in Luxor, Egypt. Well, Claire is on her honeymoon, accompanied by her daughter Caron, and Inez, Caron’s best friend and frequent partner in adventure. Peter, meanwhile, is mostly away doing business in his new, completely undiscussed role in law enforcement.
Lies a thoroughly modern malloy mystery …
At the glamorous Winter Palace in Luxor, Claire is intent on a quiet, uneventful stay involving shopping, and tourist sites. But despite her determined efforts to avoid trouble, the tenor of the trip quickly switches from sleepy to creepy. First, Caron and Inez are chased through darkened deserted alleys by persons unknown. Then a blond college student of their recent acquaintance is kidnapped by two young men on horseback in a scene reminiscent of a Hollywood horror film. Something is clearly afoot in this tourist paradise…and now Claire will stop at nothing to find out what.
“Humor, quirky characters, a rich mother-daughter relationship, and the fresh setting all add to this satisfying addition to Hess’s long-running series.”—Booklist
“Breezy and delightful…Claire Malloy is one of the most engaging narrators in mystery.” – The Drood Review
“Fresh and funny…[Hess’s] trademark humor is stamped on every page. Fans will find much to enterain.” – Publishers Weekly on The Goodbye Body
Read an ExcerptMummy Dearest
A Claire Malloy Mystery
By Hess, Joan St. Martin's Minotaur
Copyright © 2008 Hess, Joan
All right reserved.
“Those Do Not look like camels to me.”
“That’s because they’re horses.”
“Where are the camels?”
“How should I know?”
“You’re the one who said there’d be camels all over the place.”
“I did not!”
“You did so!”
What a dandy way to start a honeymoon, I thought as I came into the parlor of the suite. My daughter, Caron, and her best friend, Inez, were on the balcony, engaged in what was clearly an argument of cosmic significance. I felt as if I’d been flattened by a giant waffle iron. The three of us had left Farberville many hours ago, possibly even days ago. We’d flown to Dallas, then Atlanta, then Frankfurt, followed by a six-hour layover and a flight to Cairo. After an interminable time snaking through customs at that airport, we’d flown on to Luxor. A lovely man whose name I did not remember had met us at the gate, collected our luggage, and whisked us to the hotel. Although the sun was still shining, I’d brushed my teeth and collapsed in bed.
Now, showered and wearing the terry-cloth bathrobe I’d found in the bathroom, I joined the girls on the balcony. The view was dazzling. Below us were terraces delineated with marble rails, a lush garden of shadygrass and cheerful flowers, and beyond those the corniche, a boulevard that ran alongside the Nile. The medians were dotted with palm trees, shrubs, and minimal litter. Boxy metal cruise ships were docked at a large concrete pier, and small boats with triangular sails sliced through the brown water. On the other side of the river, hostile mountains dominated the horizon. There was no trace of vegetation on the slopes, only rocks and sheer cliffs. The fabled West Bank, with its Valley of the Kings and, somewhere to the south, the Valley of the Queens. The pharaohs, it seemed, preferred separate accommodations, even in the next world.
“Horse-drawn carriages and frenetic little cars,” I said, “but no camels. Camels have humps.”
Inez coughed delicately. “What one would expect to see here are dromedaries, or Arabian camels. They have one hump. Bactrian camels are indigenous to Asia and have two humps. Camels can go for two weeks without water, and a month without food. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t store water in their humps. The fatty tissue metabolizes with—”
“Hump, hump, harrumph.” Caron sat down on one of the padded chairs. “We were about to call for the paramedics, Mother. You slept for fifteen hours.”
“Don’t worry, Ms. Malloy,” Inez said earnestly. “It’s classic jet lag, and at your age, it—” She stopped and stared. “I guess I should call you Ms. Rosen, shouldn’t I? I’ll try, but it still sounds really weird. I’ve always called you Ms. Malloy.”
“I’m not going to change my name,” I said.
Caron snorted. “Yeah, all that paperwork. What does Peter think about it—or did you bother to ask him? Where is he, anyway?”
I leaned against the marble rail. “It’s my decision, not his. As for his whereabouts, they are unknown. He was supposed to be here when we arrived. He must have been tied up in a meeting in Cairo.” I was relieved when neither girl persisted with questions. I’d intentionally been vague about the trip in general, saying only that Peter might be asked to discuss police matters while we were there. I did not want them to know the extent of his involvement, and frankly, I didn’t want to know, either. He’d attended a training session at what I blithely had called FBI summer camp and, after a brief furlough, returned to the East Coast for six weeks of further tutelage in the delicacies of international skulduggery. He’d had three days off to come home to give me tickets and travel information, confer with the captain of the Farberville Police Department—and show up at our wedding. Two days later Peter left for final briefings, and I hadn’t seen him since. I suspected the CIA, Interpol, and the Department of Homeland Security were behind all this, but Peter hadn’t volunteered any information and I hadn’t asked.
However, because of whoever it was, we had an all-expenses-paid honeymoon to an exotic locale. We had a suite in the Winter Palace, where the idle rich had come for more than a hundred years to play whist, gingerly poke around dusty tombs, and enjoy the balmy fall and winter weather. Situated at one end of the third floor, the suite had a large parlor with fiercely floral upholstered sofas and chairs, and an eclectic mix of antique (sideboard, framed paintings, gaudy vases) and contemporary (mini-bar, TV) furnishings. Massive arrangements of flowers and a tray of fresh and dried fruit had awaited us. I had not yet seen the girls’ bedroom, but the master bedroom had a fireplace, a sitting area, and a bathroom with a stall shower, a marble vanity, and a bathtub in which one might swim laps.
There was a knock. Caron hurried past me to the front door of the parlor.
“She ordered coffee from room service while you were taking a shower,” Inez explained.
“Oh,” I murmured, somewhat unnerved by their display of thoughtfulness. Although Caron was still plagued by fits of adolescent pique, she was beginning to show more frequent outbursts of maturity. I didn’t know if it was due to the arrival of her seventeenth birthday, her ascendancy to sta-tus of an upperclassman, or my marriage. September had been a month fraught with significance for all of us.
Caron came out to the balcony and whispered, “Am I supposed to tip him?”
I looked back at the elderly man in a white coat, who was gathering up orange and banana peels from the coffee table. He was bald, his scalp dappled with dark blemishes; his face was creased like a walnut shell. “I don’t know,” I said, “so let’s not worry about it now. I’ll ask Peter when he gets here.”
“This was delivered to the front desk,” she said, handing me an envelope. Peter’s meticulously proper prep school handwriting on the front was easy to identify. “The guy in there brought it for you. This is a bizarre honeymoon, Mother. I mean, what’s the point if all the two of you are going to do is correspond? We could have stayed home.”
Ignoring her, I went into the parlor and nodded at the man. “Thank you.”
He smiled. “It is my pleasure. My name is Abdullah, and I will be your houseman for your time with us. If there is any little thing I can do to make your stay most pleasant, please call the desk and they will send me here. Are your rooms to your liking?”
“Everything is lovely,” I said.
“Would madam care to order breakfast, or will you prefer the buffet on the patio adjoining the restaurant? It is served until ten o’clock.”
Caron gave him a wary look. “I don’t know about this buffet. I need something more substantial than pickled onions and hummus.”
“Oh no, miss,” Abdullah said. “Many of our guests are British or American. You will find toast and eggs, cereal, and fruit, and also cold meats and cheeses. The bacon and sausages are made of turkey meat, but I am told they are tasty.”
Inez sounded disappointed as she said, “No traditional Arab dishes?”
“Those, also,” he said, smiling at her.
“We’ll go down to the buffet,” I said to Abdullah. “I don’t believe there’s anything else we need right now. Thank you very much for the coffee.”
After he’d left, I poured myself a cup of coffee. I opened the envelope and read Peter’s note, then said, “He apologizes for missing our arrival, but will be here in time to take us out to dinner. He suggests we spend the day resting or exploring the area around the hotel. There are plenty of shops within a block or two. We can have lunch here.”
“Is that all?” asked Caron.
“The rest is personal.” I tucked the note in my bathrobe pocket. “Give me ten minutes to get dressed; then we’ll go downstairs for breakfast.” The girls were wearing shorts, T-shirts, and sandals. The guidebooks had sworn that such attire was suitable for tourist activities, with the exception of holy Muslim sites. I opted for slacks and a cotton blouse, ran a comb through my red curls, and put the heavy room key in my purse.
When we reached the multi-leveled lobby, with its impressively high ceiling, plush carpets, brass urns holding plants, and grandiose staircase, the manager hurried over. I vaguely recognized him from the previous afternoon when we’d staggered into the hotel, bleary and shell-shocked.
“Good morning, Sitt Malloy-Rosen,” he said, beaming at me. “I hope you had a nice long sleep and that the traffic did not disturb you. Some nights the drivers honk their cars and drummers gather on the pier. In the old days, our valued guests were obliged to endure only the clopping of horses as they pulled carriages along the corniche. Now, the youths have radios that blare more loudly than braying camels. We at the Winter Palace can only apologize and beg your forgiveness.”
It seemed to me that “in the old days” the manager was more likely to have been wearing diapers instead of a black suit and a striped tie. “It’s not a problem,” I said. “All cities are noisy.”
“Yes, you are so very correct. Cairo is much, much worse. Here we have only one hundred and fifty thousand citizens. Cairo has ten million, with air that smells very bad and much poverty and crime. You and Mr. Rosen are wise to bring your young ladies here to Luxor. I do hope he will be joining you soon.”
The final remark was more of a request for information than a sentiment. I chose to overlook it. “We’re looking forward to seeing all the wonderful archeological wonders of Luxor, but right now we’re more interested in breakfast. If you’ll be so kind as to point us in the right direction . . .”
“I shall escort you.” He barked something in Arabic to a desk clerk, then gestured at a short flight of steps up to a hallway. “The restaurants and patio dining are in the New Winter Palace, which was added to accommodate those who are unable to afford the Winter Palace. You are in the Presidential Suite. Directly across the hall is a stairwell that will take you to the New Winter Palace. This will save you the necessity of walking down the corridor to the elevators to come through the lobby. The entrance is not so grand there, but you may find it convenient. We at the Winter Palace are very proud of our marble staircases from the driveway to the lobby, which have been shown in many American movies. Perhaps you have seen Death on the Nile, based on a novel by Agatha Christie? She was a very fine writer of mystery novels. She visited Cairo when she was a girl, and her second husband was a noted archeologist. Many famous archeologists have stayed here at the Winter Palace, including Howard Carter, who found King Tut’s tomb almost ninety years ago. You will see many photographs of him and his benefactor, the Earl of Carnarvon, in our bar.”
I silently vowed to avoid the lobby in the future. Behind me I heard a noise that was either rumbling or grumbling, which suggested I was not the only one with the same idea. By the time we reached the patio door, I knew that the manager’s name was Ahmed, that he was born in Luxor, learned English as a purser on an British ship, had a cousin in Milwaukee, and would die in order to protect us from speeding taxis. I stopped him before he could seat us at a table and drape napkins on our laps, and sent him away as graciously as possible. The girls and I perused the buffet and returned to our table with standard American fare.
“That man is a menace,” Caron said as she spread jam on a roll.
Inez nodded. “It’s tempting to go stand in the middle of the corniche and see if he keeps his word.”
“He’s just trying to be helpful,” I said. “Egyptians are friendly, and they cherish tourists, who are vital to the economy. Ever since the—” I caught myself before I blurted out the phrase “terrorist attacks.”
“Ever since what?” demanded Caron.
“The discovery of the tomb of King Tutankhamun,” I said quickly. “In 1922, by Howard Carter. Nearly ten million tourists come to Egypt every year.”
Inez gazed at me. Unlike Caron, whose sole preparation for the trip had been to watch Lawrence of Arabia and shop for sunglasses, Inez had read everything I had at my bookstore, then moved on to the Farber College library. I’d overheard her trying to teach Caron a few words of Arabic. I could tell from Inez’s expression that she knew about the terrorist attack at the Temple of Hatshepsut in 1997 and the more recent incidents at resorts on the Red Sea. She also knew how Caron would respond if the topic was aired.
“Oh yeah,” Caron said, examining the omelet on her plate for any hint that an alien ingredient might have been slipped inside it despite her vigilance.
I asked a waiter to bring me a pot of tea, then forced myself to eat a piece of toast and a few bites of melon. The tedious trip had not only exhausted me, but also confused my body. We’d been plied with food and drink along the way, although not with any reference to my internal rhythm. It would be wise, I thought, to take things easy for a day or two until I was acclimatized. Caron and Inez appeared to have already done so, but they were seventeen and thought nothing of staying up all night to watch movies, feast on junk food, and paint their toenails cerise.
“Howdy, ma’am and little ladies. You reckon I might join you?” The speaker, a tall man with thick gray hair combed into a sculpted pompadour, pulled out a chair and sat down across from me. He wore a white suit, ornately detailed leather boots, and a bolo tie; all that was missing was a broad-brimmed hat with a rattlesnake band. “Please send me off with my tail between my legs if I’m interrupting, ma’am. I’ve spent the last week minglin’ with the natives, and I was thinking it would be right nice to talk to some Americans for a change. Name’s Sittermann, from Houston in the great state of Texas. I’m what you call an entrepreneur. I’m lookin’ into building a theme park outside of Cairo, with a roller coaster, water slides, rides, and costumed characters like King Tut and Cleopatra.”
“You’re welcome to join us,” I said inanely, since he already had and was waving at a waiter.
“This your first time in Egypt?” he asked.
Caron and Inez were both glaring at him. I frowned at them, then said, “Yes, it is, Mr. Sittermann, but not yours, I gather.”
He spoke in Arabic to the waiter, then sat back and said, “You’re very astute, Mrs. . . . ?”
“Malloy. This is my daughter, Caron, and her friend, Inez.”
“I hope you enjoy yourselves. There’s all sorts of places to see in Luxor, presuming you like to look at old rocks. The Temple of Luxor’s right next to the hotel, but you got to walk a good ways to the entrance to go inside.”
Inez regained control of herself. “Primarily built by Amenhotep, from 1390 to 1352 b.c., on the site of a sanctuary built by Hatshepsut and dedicated to the deities Amun, Mut, and Khons. Amun was the most important god of Thebes, later worshipped as Amun-Ra.”
Caron threw her napkin on the table. “Enough, okay? I am not going to spend the next two weeks in a dreary documentary that drones on and on about every stupid little name and date. I would rather throw myself off the balcony. Mother, promise that you’ll take my body home for a proper burial. I don’t want to spend eternity being gnawed by jackals.” She shoved back her chair. “I’m going up to the room to see what’s on TV. I’m sure Egyptian cable will be more fascinating than this.”
She stalked into the hotel. After a moment, Inez placed her napkin next to her plate and followed her. A waiter swept in and removed their glasses and plates. A nondescript brown bird fluttered to the table and began to peck at crumbs.
“We’re all tired,” I said to Sittermann. “We arrived late yesterday afternoon.”
“No need to apologize, Mrs. Malloy. I know how it is with young folks. One minute they’re all courteous and charming, and the next minute they’re spoiled brats. Jet lag brings out the worst side in some folks.”
“They are not spoiled brats,” I said with a trace of coldness, not mentioning that this was hardly their worst side.
“Why, I’d never imply they were. I was just making a general observation. I’m sure that your young ladies will recover their good spirits when they’ve rested up.” He refilled his coffee cup from the small pot. “Will Mr. Malloy be joining you soon?”
Only as a mummy, I thought, resisting the urge to giggle at the image that popped into my mind. Carlton Malloy, my first husband, was residing in the cemetery in Farberville, due to an unfortunately close encounter with a chicken truck on a snowy mountain road, and, more unfortunately, in the company of one of his more curvaceous blond students. The scandalous details had been hushed up by the college administration, but their exposure by a romance writer had resulted in murder. Lieutenant Peter Rosen had had the audacity to suspect me, then almost crossed the line by accusing me of flouncing. It had made for a tenuous start to our relationship. “I very much doubt that,” I said, then took a sip of tea.
“It’s brave of you to travel without a man to watch out for you. Egypt’s not as bad as some of the Arab countries, but pretty women like yourself are liable to attract unwanted attention.”
“I’m sure they do,” I said, “but the girls and I are capable of taking care of ourselves.”
“All the same, I’d be honored to escort you all on any of your excursions. I’ve been doing business over here for a long while. I can’t say that I understand how they think, but I know for a fact that they’re more than willing to take advantage of single women, especially Westerners. Be real careful about being overcharged, even by the hotel staff. Any man who so much as opens a door for you will expect baksheesh, but just brush ’em off like flies. Don’t ever get in a taxi without settling on a price first.”
“Thank you for your advice,” I said, wondering if he was distantly related to the hotel manager. “However, my husband will be joining us this evening, so you need not concern yourself further.”
I expected my boorish companion to question this, but he merely shrugged. “That takes a load off my mind, Mrs. Malloy. I just didn’t want to think about you and the little fillies being pestered and cheated on account of your sex. How long will you be staying here in Luxor?”
“I really couldn’t say, Mr. Sittermann. If you’ll excuse me, I’d like to check on the girls. It’s a long drop from the balcony, and my daughter is capable of almost anything.”
“You must be staying in the Presidential Suite. I hear it’s right fancy.”
“Good day,” I said, then went into the hotel. After a brief debate, I tackled the stairwell and arrived, albeit panting, on the third floor across the hall from our suite. As I opened the door, I heard Inez’s voice from their bedroom.
“‘Her heart began to pound as she studied his cruel gray eyes and the sneer that tugged at his lips. She knew he was watching her while he twirled the jewel-encrusted dagger in his calloused hands, watching for any sign of weakness from her. What more could he want from her? He’d brutally ravished her that first horrible night. She felt heat color her face as she remembered how he’d torn off her blouse, and then seized her breasts as if he owned them. Despite her cries of protest, he’d overpowered her and forced her to surrender to his despicable desires until the sun rose over the dunes.’”
Inez turned the page of the book she held, oblivious to my intrusion. “‘She vowed, as she had done every waking moment since he’d kidnapped her at the oasis, that she would never bend beneath his piercing stare, nor submit willingly to his brutish demands. He could have his way with her body, she thought bitterly, but she would never allow him to forget that he was a filthy native, a dark-skinned heathen worthy of nothing more than her contempt, while she was a lady of breeding. No, she would never give him the satisfaction of seeing her weep or plead for mercy.’”
“What are you reading?” I asked, appalled.
“The Savage Sheik.”
Caron, who was flopped across the bed, raised her head. “It should be called Gone with the Sirocco. I’m sure it must have titillated the upper-class British ladies back in the nineteen-twenties, but it’s impossibly silly these days. She practically swoons every time he exhales.”
Inez pulled off her glasses and cleaned them on her shirt. “Then I won’t bore you with it anymore.”
“Fine with me.” Caron flopped back across the bed and fluttered her hands. “Bring me my smelling salts. I am overwhelmed with repressed lust for the filthy native and his deadly dagger. Ravage me, you savage!”
“You have no concept of period literature,” Inez said huffily.
I decided both of them needed a nap before they lapsed any further into hostility. I could not suggest such a juvenile thing, so I opted for tact. “Why don’t we go out for a little while? I need to change some money, and there’s a bank right outside the hotel entrance. We can wander around and look in some of the shops, then come back here for lunch and a rest. Then, if you’d like, we can have tea on the terrace and wait for Peter.”
Caron brightened at the idea of shopping and began to rummage through her suitcase. Inez reluctantly put down her book and disappeared into the bathroom. I went to the master bedroom, noting that the bed had been made and the bathroom supplied with fresh towels, and made sure I had my passport and a few hundred dollars in traveler’s checks. Even though I’d been dazed when we arrived at the hotel, I had noticed the shops’ windows cluttered with jewelry and designer fashions. I am not miserly by nature, but I’d struggled to earn a living from my beloved bookstore. It had seemed like a dream when I’d leased the old depot and carefully stocked it with racks and shelves of books. Within three months, reality had settled in like a bad head cold. My competition came from the chain bookstores at the mall and, more recently, from online sources. I relied on the campus community and a decreasing number of regular customers with eclectic taste or a fondness for pop fiction genres they preferred to purchase discreetly.
In this situation, which was admittedly peculiar since very few couples take teenagers with them on a honeymoon, Peter insisted on loading me up with traveler’s checks. When I protested, he countered with the price of a single airplane ticket to Luxor. There was a flaw in the logic, but I’d acquiesced with a becoming blush. Even brides slightly over forty years of age are allowed such things, as long as they don’t flutter their eyelashes and simper. Or swoon.
“Let’s use the stairs and go out through the New Winter Palace lobby,” I suggested as we went into the hall. I spotted Abdullah watching us from behind a cart laden with cleaning supplies. I gave him a small wave, then followed the girls down to the less impressive lobby. Several of the male employees (I’d yet to see a female one), all dressed in white coats and red fezzes, nodded at us as we went outside.
Within the walls of the hotel compound was a walkway lined with shops. Caron and Inez paused at a window filled with T-shirts and hats, while I went into a tiny bank branch and armed myself with a thick stack of Egyptian pound notes. I caught up with the girls at a shop selling scarves and perfume.
“This stuff is so expensive,” Caron said morosely. “Some of the T-shirts are eighty pounds. There are some cute sandals for a hundred pounds. I know Peter wants us to buy things, but this is ridiculous.”
“Divide by five for dollars,” I said. “Before you get too carried away with these shops, let’s look into some local ones. There’s a mall of sorts just past the corner.”
“A mall?” echoed Inez.
“More like an alley,” I said. “The man at the bank told me about it. This is a tourist area, so the prices will still be on the high side. We might as well have a look, though.” I did not add that we would pass by a bookstore on the way. It’s an addiction that cannot be easily explained and can rarely be overcome.
The temperature was warm but comfortable, as promised by the guidebook. We strolled along the side of the corniche, ignoring the carriage drivers and shoeshine boys clamoring for our attention. Shop owners came out and begged us to consider their offerings, which were, of course, available at the best prices in Luxor. Inside a newsstand, two boys were playing a game on a computer. An ancient man shaped like a pear sat on a folding stool, scowling at his Arabic newspaper and puffing on a water pipe. Many of the men wore long white robes and some had sweat-stained cloths tied around their heads. A gaggle of schoolgirls passed us, wearing dark scarves and long skirts but also sandals adorned with plastic flowers and glass beads.
A sandwich board announced the so-called mall. We turned into the passageway crowded with souvenir shops and racks of T-shirts. I looked around curiously as the girls cooed over plush toy camels and plastic sphinxes. I had managed to walk by the bookstore without a whimper, but I could feel its seductive allure. I decided I could interest the girls in postcards on our way back to the hotel. I drifted away from the T-shirt racks and began to look at jewelry in a window. I needed to take back a gift for Sergeant Jorgeson and his wife, who’d hosted our wedding in their garden, and one for Luanne Bradshaw, my best friend and confidante. I needed to find something that was either hysterically tacky or incredibly tasteful for her. A piece of antique jewelry might fit either category.
Caron caught my elbow and dragged me into a tiny shop overpowered with shelves of tablecloths and tea towels. “Mother,” she whispered, “I think we’re being followed.”
“I’m sure we are, dear. We’re tourists. We might as well have bull’s-eyes pinned on our backs proclaiming us to be rich and foolish.”
“No, I saw him at the hotel, too. He was sitting near the exit, pretending to read a newspaper.”
“Maybe he was reading a newspaper,” I said.
“He looked right at us when we walked by him.”
I grinned. “He may be planning on making an offer for you. How many camels are you worth? A hundred? Should I hold out for more?”
Caron’s lower lip shot out. “You are So Not Funny. What if he’s trying to figure out how to kidnap us?”
Inez scuttled into the shop and began to wheeze. “He spoke to me,” she said between gasps. “I was looking at this really cute puppet when he brushed against me and said, ‘Ahlan wa-sahlan.’ I think that’s what he said, anyway. I almost screamed.”
I frowned. “Any idea what it meant?”
She gulped. “If I heard it right, it means ‘hello.’”
“And then . . . ?” I said.
“He turned away and said something to the owner, who laughed and said something back. I know they were talking about me.”
“What are you going to do, Mother?” demanded Caron.
Gazing solemnly at them, I said, “I’m going to pop in that bookstore and see if they carry books in English. If they do, I may browse for an hour and perhaps buy some postcards. After that, I’m going to go back to the hotel and have a light lunch on the patio. Would you two care to join me?”
“What if he’s stalking us?” demanded Caron.
“That’s a strong word,” I said, shaking my head. “Is he Egyptian?”
Inez shrugged. “Arab, anyway, with a droopy mustache and a scar across his cheek. He has on sunglasses, a plaid sport jacket, and wrinkled trousers. He looks like the villain in an old movie like Casablanca.”
I glanced out the shop window. “I don’t see anybody who looks remotely like that.” The shopkeeper was moving in on us, his eyes bright and his smile painfully broad. I nudged the girls toward the door. “Let’s go to the bookstore. If you spot this man, you can point him out to me.”
“Then you believe us?” Caron said.
I didn’t, but I also didn’t want to linger and end up with a tablecloth and matching napkins. “I believe you captured the attention of an Arab gentleman who most likely thinks the two of you are attractive and charming, and is hoping for an opportunity to make your acquaintance.” I lowered my voice. “Then fling you across his camel and carry you to his oasis, where he will ravish you nightly and force you to wear emeralds in your navels.”
I allowed them to sputter while I herded them back to the bookstore. Neither claimed to see their less-than-dashing sheik, and eventually they began to look at postcards. The bookstore was much mustier than mine, and dusty enough to elicit several explosive sneezes from me. I dabbed my eyes with a handkerchief while I examined the shelves of worn covers and titles in a bewildering array of languages. I was looking at an ornithology guide when Caron and Inez tracked me down and admitted they were tired.
The two salesclerks did not look up as we left. We turned onto the corniche and headed for the hotel. The grand staircase that led up to the lobby of the Winter Palace looked daunting, so we continued past the low wall to the entrance of the New Winter Palace.
Abruptly Caron stopped. “There he is!” she squeaked. “Going in the lobby! Do you see him, Mother? The same man!”
I paused. “I see a businessman returning to his hotel.”
“That’s the man,” Inez said, squeaking less vehemently than Caron but doing her best. “The one who has been following us.”
“Now’s your chance to reciprocate,” I said, “unless you want to stand out here and dither the rest of the day. I’m not in the mood for lunch. I’m going to buy a newspaper and go up to our suite. You can either eat lunch downstairs or come up and order room service.”
Ten minutes later I was on the balcony, reading the previous day’s newspaper and listening to snores from the bedroom on the far side of the parlor.
Thus far, my honeymoon had been less than romantic—but the moon had yet to rise above the Nile.
Copyright © 2008 by Joan Hess. All rights reserved.
Excerpted from Mummy Dearest by Hess, Joan Copyright © 2008 by Hess, Joan. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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What People are saying about this
“Humor, quirky characters, a rich mother-daughter relationship, and the fresh setting all add to this satisfying addition to Hess’s long-running series.”—Booklist
Meet the Author
Joan Hess is the author of both the Claire Malloy and the Maggody mystery series. She is a winner of the American Mystery Award, a member of Sisters in Crime, and a former president of the American Crime Writers League. She lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Having been a past Claire Malloy fan, I found this one boring and repetitious.
I enjoy Claire Malloy and her antics. I like the characters of the annoying angst driven, eye rolling teenage daughter Caron and her awkward best friend Inez. This book just did not live up to the others. It wasnt funny. Maybe it was the concentration on the exotic setting. I dont know but I was disappointed. I hope the next one will be like the others
Quirky with lots of humor.
After 16 books Claire and Peter have finally tied the knot and are honeymooning in beautiful and exotic Egypt but since Peter is mixing police work with pleasure, they've brought along daughter Caron and best friend Inez. In her first mystery outside of Farberville, Claire's presence garners much attention from the British Eygptology buffs, the American archaeologists along with an obnoxious Texas business man and a couple college students bored with Rome. In the elegant and famous Winter Palace in Luxor, Claire is planning a quiet and restful stay, Caron is intent on shopping and Inez, now an expert on Ancient Egpypt, is in her element but a mysterious man with a mustache is following the girls and the British contingent of guests are intent on making Claire a part of their group, sure that where Claire Malloy goes, so goes murder and mystery. They are not disappointed. Joan Hess adds a humorous touch of Elizabeth Peters and even incorporates a descendent of Amelia Peabody. VIP visits to an active site in the Valley of the Kings only draws more attention to Claire and family and in spite of police escorts disguised as chauffeurs, there seems no way to keep the amateur sleuth out of trouble. With an easy touch, Hess reminds the reader of Hercule Poirot's adventures on the Nile and oh yes, there is a cruise down the Nile. An enjoyable journey, fun, mystery, quirky characters and surprise twists will keep your interested.
I have read all of the Claire stories and always was pleased. This time I had a hard time even finishing the story. The plot started out good but the characters were not an asset. They were so outrageous that they were not beleivable. There was none of the understanding of the culture of the country. Even the end was disappointing. Not up to the usual style of Joan Hess
It has been a long road with many complicating detours, but Farberville, Arkansas bookseller Claire Malloy and Lieutenant Peter Rosen tie the knot. Peter disappeared after the wedding, going to Egypt on business where he will meet up with his bride for the honeymoon in Luxor. Claire understands her Peter will vanish periodically because he works with Egyptian authorities in connection with a newly formed terrorist organization.-------------- Also on the honeymoon are Claire¿s seventeen year old daughter Caron and her friend Inez. The three ladies are quickly absorbed into the expatriate community, of who many are not what they seem as they have hidden agendas that arouse Claire¿s suspicions. The girls believe a mustached man with a scar is following them. They tell Claire and Peter that they were late because they eluded this stalker. While sightseeing, one of the female visitors is kidnapped by men on horses her lover persuades Claire to help him find her, but he disappears too. Soon expatriates are killed allegedly linked to an undiscovered tomb. Claire investigates with a need to know what is going on amidst the tourist trap.------------ The latest Claire Malloy book is a delightful, charming and hilarious amateur sleuth tale that refreshes the series by moving the heroine from the States to Egypt where she and readers meet an eccentric cast. Armchair travelers will thoroughly enjoy the tour of Luxor, but make no mistake it is Claire¿s investigation that carries the plot. Although why the student asked Claire to make inquires seems odd, fans will appreciate this charming complicated cozy as no one except Claire and her retinue is what they purport to be thus much of the fun is figuring out just who each of these masqueraders truly is.----------------- Harriet Klausner