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The Serpent on the Crown (Amelia Peabody Series #17)

The Serpent on the Crown (Amelia Peabody Series #17)

4.3 39
by Elizabeth Peters

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A priceless relic has been delivered to the Emerson home overlooking the Nile. But more than history surrounds this golden likeness of a forgotten king, for it is said early death will befall anyone who possesses it.

The woman who implores the renowned family of archaeologists and adventurers to accept the cursed statue insists the


A priceless relic has been delivered to the Emerson home overlooking the Nile. But more than history surrounds this golden likeness of a forgotten king, for it is said early death will befall anyone who possesses it.

The woman who implores the renowned family of archaeologists and adventurers to accept the cursed statue insists the ill-gotten treasure has already killed her husband. Further, she warns, unless it is returned to the tomb from which it was stolen, more will surely die. With the world finally at peace—and with Egypt's ancient mysteries opened to them once more—Amelia Peabody and her loved ones are plunged into a storm of secrets, treachery, and murder by a widow's strange story and even stranger request. Each step toward the truth reveals a new peril, suggesting this curse is no mere superstition. And the next victim of the small golden king could be any member of the close-knit clan—perhaps even Amelia herself.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
In this installment of fictional Egyptologist Amelia Peabody's fascinating exploits, the year is 1922. The Great War is over, and Amelia and her beloved husband, Emerson, are eager to resume their excavations. However, their work is soon interrupted when a flamboyant widow -- famed for the lurid, gothic tales she writes -- begs the eminent Emersons to save her from a cursed statuette, which she declares has claimed her husband's life and now threatens her own. Though Amelia and Emerson are quick to dispute the validity of the curse, the artifact itself is both genuine and extraordinarily rare. Of course, the danger that accompanies such an incredible find is also real…and adds delightfully chilling complications to this tale of Amelia and Emerson's long-awaited return to the Valley of the Kings. Sue Stone
Marilyn Stasio
Peters lays out her scenes of romantic derring-do with such a lavish hand that it seems a bit nerdy to draw attention to the deeper pleasure of the rich scholarship involved in these archaeological mysteries.
— THe New York Times
Publishers Weekly
MWA Grand Master Peters delivers another winner that you can't put down and yet don't want to see end, the 17th entry in her bestselling series to feature Egyptologist Amelia Peabody Emerson and her extended family (after 2004's Guardian of the Horizon). Early in 1922, novelist Magda Petherick, the widow of noted collector Pringle Petherick, interrupts the tea that the Emerson clan are enjoying on the veranda of their house by the Nile. Mrs. Petherick wants Emerson, Amelia's eminent archeologist husband, to dispose of a beautiful golden statuette that Pringle acquired shortly before his death because she believes it carries a curse. All are intrigued. News travels fast, and such a magnificent artifact soon attracts all manner of collectors, museum authorities, journalists and evildoers. Emerson's illegitimate half-brother, Sethos, formerly a dealer in illegal antiquities, arrives in disguise, but unfortunately he's followed by the gentleman he's impersonating. Tomb excavations, mountain treks, brutal attacks, an abduction, an exorcism and murder keep the plot hopping. The author's droll sense of humor and picture of a leisurely and less complicated age add to the appeal. Agent, Dominick Abel. (On sale Mar. 29) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Intrepid sleuth, archaeologist, and matriarch Amelia Peabody returns in her 17th appearance to date. In autumn 1921, widowed Mrs. Petherick gives Amelia and husband Emerson a valuable gold statue, pleading with them to remove the curse on it that killed her husband. Peabody, always a skeptic, wonders why Mrs. Petherick is so eager to unload the statue when she and her stepchildren could clearly use the money a sale would bring. Emerson vows to uncover the tomb from which the statue was stolen, which requires extensive excavations in the Valley of the Kings. Could the statue be from an undiscovered tomb in the valley? Perhaps famed archaelogist Howard Carter could help investigate. The narrative contains the usual disappearances, muggings, chases, and clever disguises we have come to expect from the Emerson family. The book suffers, though, from minimal character development and a skimpy plot. In-jokes for "Informed Readers" aside, this isn't Peters's best work, but is certainly a required purchase for any public library. Peters lives in western Maryland. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/1/04].-Laurel Bliss, Princeton Univ. Lib., NJ Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
More murder and mayhem for the indefatigable Amelia Peabody and her friends and relations. It's 1922. Peabody and Emerson, her handsome, clever, duplicitous Egyptologist husband, are excavating at Deir el Medina along with their son Ramses, his wife Nefret and the usual supporting cast when well-known collector Pringle Petherick's widow Magda arrives and presents Emerson with a solid-gold figure of a king she claims is cursed. The valuable statue soon attracts a rush of other aspiring owners: Magda's stepchildren, the resourceful Harriet and her brother Adrian, who suffers from war-related mental problems; Emerson's rich American friend Cyrus Vandergelt; the repellent Sir Malcolm, and a host of other thieves, one of them successful. When Magda disappears, Peabody assumes she's trying to publicize her authorial career, but not to the extent of leaving her corpse under a bush in the hotel garden. Emerson, who's determined to solve the murder and return the statue to its rightful owner, is joined by his mysterious brother Sethos and Ramses' friend David. The police think Adrian is the killer, but there are many other possibilities, and Peabody is lucky to escape the thicket of interrelated problems with her life before the denouement. Peabody's Victorian rhetoric can go over the top, but her likable family's fans will find much to enjoy in an adventure less convoluted than usual (The Falcon at the Portal, 1999, etc.), salted with the obligatory tidbits of Egyptology.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Amelia Peabody Series , #17
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.15(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Serpent on the Crown

By Elizabeth Peters

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Elizabeth Peters
All right reserved.

ISBN: 006059179X

Chapter One

He woke from a feverish sleep to see something bending over him. It was a shape of black ice, a tall featureless outline that exuded freezing cold. He tried to move, to cry out. Every muscle was frozen. Cold air touched his face, sucking out breath, warmth, life.

We had gathered for tea on the veranda. It is a commodious apartment, stretching clear across the front of the house, and the screens covering the wide window apertures and outer door do not interfere with the splendid view. Looking out at the brilliant sunlight and golden sand, with the water of the Nile tinted by the sunset, it was hard to believe that elsewhere in the world snow covered the ground and icy winds blew. My state of mind was as benevolent as the gentle breeze. The delightful but exhausting Christmas festivities were over and a new year had begun -- 1922, which, I did not doubt, would bring additional success to our excavations and additional laurels to the brow of my distinguished spouse, the greatest Egyptologist of this or any age.

Affectionately I contemplated his impressive form -- the sapphire-blue eyes and ebon hair, the admirable musculature of chest and arms, half bared by his casual costume. Our son, Ramses, who had acquired that nickname because hehad the coloring of an Egyptian and, in his youth, the dogmatism of a pharaoh, sat comfortably sprawled on the settee, next to his beautiful wife, our adopted daughter, Nefret. Faint cries of protest and distress drifted to our ears from the house the dear little children and their parents occupied; but even Nefret, the most devoted of mothers, paid them no heed. We were well accustomed to the complaints; such sounds always accompanied the efforts of Fatima and her assistants (it took several of them) to wash and change the children. It would be some time before the little dears joined us, and when a carriage drew up in front of the house I could not repress a mild murmur of protest at the disturbance of our peace.

Emerson protested more emphatically. "Damnation! Who the devil is that?"

"Now, Emerson, don't swear," I said, watching a woman descend from the carriage.

Asking Emerson not to use bad language is tantamount to King Canute's ordering the tide not to surge in. His Egyptian sobriquet of "Father of Curses" is well deserved.

"Do you know her?" Emerson demanded.


"Then tell her to go away."

"She appears to be in some distress," Nefret said. Her physician's gaze had noted the uncertain movements and hesitant steps. "Ramses, perhaps you had better see if she requires assistance."

"Assist her back into her carriage," Emerson said loudly.

Ramses looked from his wife to his father to me, his heavy black eyebrows tilting in inquiry. "Use your own judgment," I said, knowing what the result would be. Ramses was too well brought up (by me) to be rude to a woman, and this one appeared determined to proceed. As soon as he reached her she caught hold of his arm with both hands, swayed, and leaned against him. In a breathy, accented voice she said, "You are Dr. Emerson, I believe? I must see you and your parents at once."

Somewhat taken aback by the title, which he had earned but never used, Ramses looked down at the face she had raised in entreaty. I could not make out her features, since she was heavily veiled. The veils were unrelieved black, as was her frock. It fit (in my opinion) rather too tightly to a voluptuously rounded figure. Short of prying her hands off his arm, Ramses had no choice but to lead her to the veranda.

As soon as she was inside she adjusted the black chiffon veils, exposing a countenance whose semblance of youth owed more to art than to nature. Her eyes were framed with kohl and her full lips were skillfully tinted. Catching my eye, she lifted her chin in a practiced gesture that smoothed out the slight sagging of her throat. "I apologize for the intrusion. The matter is of some urgency. My name is Magda Petherick. I am the widow of Pringle Petherick. My life is threatened and only you can save me."

It was certainly the sort of introduction that captured one's attention. I invited Mrs. Petherick to take a chair and offered her a cup of tea. "Take your time," I said, for she was breathing quickly and her face was flushed. She carried a heavy reticule, which she placed at her feet before she accepted the cup from Ramses.

Leaning against the wall, his arms folded, Emerson studied her interestedly. Like myself, he had recognized the name.

"Your husband was Pringle Petherick, the well-known collector?" he inquired. "I believe he passed away recently."

"November of last year," she said. "A date that is engraved on my heart." She pressed her hand over that region of her person and launched, without further preamble, into the description I have already recorded. "He woke that morning from a feverish sleep ...

"This is what killed him," she finished. Reaching into the bag, she withdrew a rectangular box painted with crude Egyptian sym-bols. "He had purchased it only a few weeks earlier, unaware that the curse of the long-dead owner yet clung to it."

A long pause ensued, while we all tried to think of an appropriate response. It had occurred to me, as I feel sure it has occurred to the Reader, that there was a certain literary air about her narrative, but even Emerson was not rude enough to inform a recently bereaved widow that she was either lying or demented ...


Excerpted from The Serpent on the Crown by Elizabeth Peters Copyright © 2006 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.

Meet the Author

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.

Brief Biography

A farm in rural Maryland
Date of Birth:
September 29, 1927
Place of Birth:
Canton, Illinois
M.A., Ph.D. in Egyptology, Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 1952

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Serpent on the Crown 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 39 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is perhaps the weakest book in a great series, and was probably written by a ghost writer. Rames daughters' name has inexplicably changed from Charla to Carla. The plot is thin and predictable.
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tuggytoot More than 1 year ago
I've read the series 3 times and would read it all again in another year or so
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As always Elizabeth Peters books are always entertaining. I enjoyed it with the exception of Radcliff being a little careless with a valuable item. I would expect a little more caution on his part but thats what contributes to the adventure. It's an easy book to read and enjoy what steps are taken to get the item back.
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Amelia could be Agatha Christie's first cousin. The charactters are so believable, it makes me want to go to Egypt to meet them. The plots are exciting and engrossing.
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