Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Book Review - Elizabeth Peters' The Last Camel Died at Noon

The Last Camel Died at Noon, Amelia Peabody Book 6 by Elizabeth Peters
Published by: Grand Central
Publication Date: 1991
Format: Paperback, 430 Pages
Challenge: Valley of the Kings, Mystery and Suspense 2011
Rating: ★★
To Buy
Amelia and Emerson are all abuzz. Parts of the Sudan are once more under British control. All new archaeological sites are at their fingertips! All Amelia can think about is the pyramids. All those pyramids that have been not been studied due to political conflict and strife. But, never can the Emersons be allowed to just work, oh no. There must always be something more. That something more comes as a plea from a Mr. Forthright, who happens to pass out at Amelia's feet. Luckily Viscount Blacktower soon arrives to explain the situation in full, unconscious grandson and all. Over a decade ago, his eldest son, Willoughby Forth, set out to explore the Sudan with his new bride. They were never to be heard from again, until now. What with the conflict in the region there is a slim chance that a message might have taken this long to reach them. Now that England has reclaimed the land and the mysterious note has arrived scrawled on ancient papyrus, Lord Blacktower hopes that the rumors of the Emersons going to the Sudan are true and that they can help in his cause. Despite having known Willoughby, Emerson does not hold out hope for the Forths. The unique message and map drawn on a page from one of Emerson's own journals, does not raise Emerson to the bait. He is for pyramids and pyramids alone, but if he should hear of something, well then... he'll pass along the information.

Soon the Emersons are ensconced near the British regiment in Napata with a whole plethora of pyramids and Mr. Reggie Forthright. Thinking that perhaps he should be on the scene if news of the Forths reach them he has brought himself all the way to the Sudan. Things start to escalate, as they always do. Ramses is almost kidnapped, Reggie is attacked and then decides to head off into the dessert in search of his uncle, against the better judgement of everyone, where he soon disappears. Whence Reggie went, Emerson and Amelie feel it their duty to go. The mysterious map they follow appears to be eerily correct. Could the Forths still be alive in some secret oasis? As time passes it looks as if they will never know. Not only do their men desert them, but soon the last remaining camel dies. They are miraculously saved and awaken to find themselves in the secret oasis that the Forths discovered years ago. Ancient Egypt is alive and well in the secret land. Time has stood still for thousands of years. It's an archaeologists dream come true. If only they were treated as honored guests and not as well maintained prisoners. Embroiled in the fight for the crown between two brothers, one of which was secretly working at the Emersons' site, they must find out what truly happened to the Forths and then make good their escape. The natives seem a little too keen on keeping them in their hidden valley with their masked maidens waiting on them forever. Biding their time, the mysteries start to unfold, but hopefully, this mystery won't end in death or imprisonment.

Going in an entirely different direction than her previous novels, this is Amelia Peabody does Indiana Jones, or, as the author herself says, H. Rider Haggard. Only, it's more like the crappy forth Indiana Jones movie then the wonders of the earlier films. It's all just too far fetched having them stumble upon this "lost tribe," but thankfully it wasn't aliens. There has always been a grounding in reality with the Amelia Peabody stories. The ghosts aren't ghosts, the mummies don't actually walk amongst us, despite all evidence to the contrary leading up to Amelia's Scooby Doo reveal. But here, here it is like the mummies walking amongst us. It's just silly and stupid all at once. So the Forths found this secret place by accident and then lived out their days there, and now it appears the same thing has happened to the Emersons. So? I really couldn't be bothered to care. They sat around all day in a house with a nice courtyard which occasionally had a cat. The cat was the high point, they mainly sat around. So what if Mrs. Forth is still there? Once they finally get to the good part, it's convoluted and nothing is openly resolved. It's a mess of a novel which I pushed through. I'm just hoping we never end up in this bizarre Never-Neverland of the Peabody cannon again. Please, I want this series back on track, not meandering with dead pachyderms in the desert.


aw, sad! This is actually one of my favorites of the series.

To each their own :)

I just felt it was so different. But I'm glad you love it! It's interesting to see what books people tend to love in such a wonderful series. I think my favorite is the 2nd one, because it was kind of Agatha Christie-ish.

My first time around reading the series, I agreed with your review 100%. Now I'm going back through but as audios read by Barbara Rosenblat. Even as crazy as this plot is, Rosenblat somehow makes it work.

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