Friday, May 18, 2012

Book Review - Elizabeth Peter's The Snake, The Crocodile and the Dog

The Snake, the Crocodile and the Dog, Amelia Peabody Book 7 by Elizabeth Peters
Published by: Grand Central
Publication Date: 1992
Format: Paperback, 448 Pages
Challenge: Valley of the Kings, Mystery and Suspense 2011
Rating: ★★★
To Buy
The Peabody Emersons are having a heck of a time hiding Nefret's origins. It's not just that coming out of the desert with a girl is odd, it's the fact that they have to concoct and stick to a story about missionaries in order to protect the valley wherein she spent her entire life and ancient Egypt still exists to this day. There are many who would desire this knowledge in order to plunder the valley... and many who might see holes in their story if closely examined. While Nefret and Ramses stay back in England, Ramses having developed an "attachment" to Nefret, for the first time in years Emerson and Amelia will have an excavation all to themselves. Soon their plan is thwarted with many unusual happenings and the kidnapping of Emerson. Amelia would lay down her life to save her husband and it is not long till he is returned to her. But returned damaged and broken... he has amnesia and no longer knows who she is.

Advised by a queer little doctor, Amelia does not force herself or her affections on Emerson and they go to where they first met, because Emerson thinks he is still on that dig. Hoping against hope that he will remember while trying to maintain a dig is one thing. Hoping that the enemy, whomever it might be will not attack again is another thing entirely. Amelia must keep Emerson alive or there is no hope at all. Perhaps the master criminal is involved... only one of genius and cunning could have such diabolical and nefarious plans.

For some reason I found this book more than a little confusing. I should note though, that I was sick and on a lot of antibiotics at the time. But as one of my friends said: "Honey, you must be sick. These plots are never hard to follow. It's part of their charm. The Peabodys go to Egypt, Ramses, David or Nefret (or all three) get into trouble, Emerson gets mad, crime solved, happy ending. Their very predictability keep me coming back." There is such a charm in the predictability of a happy ending coupled with the height of Egyptology. Though this one left me a little flat, not just because of the kidnapping, but more because of the soap opera tragedy of Emerson having amnesia and then another soap opera trope that I won't mention because it is strictly under the "spoilers" section. For the longest time I was debating back and forth as to whether Emerson really had amnesia or not, which I'm sure Peters did on purpose. For such a loving and stalwart relationship, it's really the first time since the beginning where Amelia gets to be uncertain in Emerson's love for her. I think Peters must have taken glee in shaking the unshakable, because only a complete erasure of Amelia from Emerson's memory could take away his feelings for her, and I'm sure Peters gets enough letters asking why there is no conflict (in their relationship) between them instead of Amelia just gloating about how lucky she is to have such a virile and sexy husband, even if they are couched in the terms of the day. Which, I will admit, sometimes get a bit much.

Also, it seems to me that Peters must be tired with her formulae a bit because she's starting to shake it up a little. In the previous installment, The Last Camel Died at Noon, she tried, and in my mind, failed, to do a more Rider Haggard adventure book. In this installment, because of a great deal of the characters being back in England, we have the introduction of an epistolary novel on top of the normal day to day story. While I enjoyed the letters, Ramses being hilariously Ramses in all of them, and while they added to the plot, the letters seemed to break up the plot and make it chunky. Almost as if there was a lull and then "Breaking News: This in from England!" For a seamless narrative and plot this did not do the book any favors. Worst of all though was the shoehorning in of their tragedies into the myth of "The Snake, The Crocodile and the Dog." Amelia seemed convinced that they where being sent three trials, but where and how? There's a kidnapping, a few attacks and a possibly rapid dog. Now, I see how you can derive the dog, but how are the others a snake or a crocodile? I don't think this was a lapse in my fevered brain patterns, but a failing on Peters part.


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