The next Amelia Peabody/Ramses Emerson adventure.

It’s excavation season 1911-12 and the story starts with a mix of mystery and joy: a counterfeited scarab and a wedding.

The form on the story is much the same as in the previous books. The first person narrator is Amelia with frequent addition from Manuscript H, where Ramses writes about his experiences in the third person, and also from letters which Nefret writes to her friend Lia. There is one addition, though: each chapter opens with a passage from Percy Peabody’s book “A captive of the Arabs” which is a badly written combination of swashbuckling romance story and a memoir. Percy’s book is a plot point.

One of Emerson’s archeological acquaintances brings to him a scarab which is supposed to have come from the private collection of Abdullah, Emersons’ late foreman and David’s grandfather. But there are two problems: Abdullah never collected Egyptian artifacts and the scarab is a fake. Further, David is the man who is suspected of making the forgery and selling it. The Emersons are determined find out who is behind it all. Meanwhile, David is marrying Lia, Amelia’s niece, and the Emersons don’t want to disturb the happy couple. So, they decide to investigate the matter themselves without saying anything to David.

The young couple is married in England, on the bride’s estate. The groom’s Egyptian family arrives for the wedding. This further scandalizes many English people who already disapprove of the couple.

Before the Emersons’ and the Egyptians return to Egypt, their house is broken into and the scarab is stolen. The mystery is clearly in full swing!

“The greatest Egyptologist of this or any other era” plans to excavate Zawyet el’Aryan. He seems to appreciate the site, especially since tourists don’t come there, but Amelia and the others are disappointed. The site doesn’t have enough pyramids to satisfy Amelia initially but it does turn out to be more interesting than she thought.

This time the mystery is central to the book even though there are quite a few twists which don’t directly involve the plot. Nefert has opened a clinic for the prostitutes of Cairo and Amelia buys a house to her expanding family. The boat “Amelia” is left for David and Lia when their come to Egypt. Once again, a young woman is trying to woo Ramses who isn’t interested.

The Ramses/Nefret romance gets a new twist. At first, I was delighted but in the end it was very unsatisfying. Of course, the repercussions to Nefret are heart-breaking.

I enjoyed the book quite a lot. Time marches on. Both Emerson and Amelia are getting old while the younger generation is growing up. Even today it’s rare to find a series where the characters age. There’s a lot of comedy early on but the mood of the book turns quite dark later.