Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Laughter of Dead Kings by Elizabeth Peters

Enjoyable romp of a mystery

Another enjoyable romp in the life of Vicky Bliss, assistant curator of Munich’s National Museum, art historian, antiquities expert and amateur sleuth. Elizabeth Peters has a long history of writing wonderfully strong, humorous and intelligent female characters, and in all her series her characters endear themselves to her faithful readers. The Vicky Bliss series takes place in current times rather than the Victorian era of Amelia Peabody and the early Egyptian tomb discoveries in the pyramids, her longest running series. The Laughter of Dead Kings is the sixth book in the series.

That said, this book is a joy to read, mostly conversational as plans are hatched and theories discussed. It is humorous, mysterious, and just good lighthearted reading. The perfect foil to a siege of heavy reading. The characters are so intensely drawn, funny and intelligent, including John, a once notorious thief of antiquities turned antiquities dealer and Vicky’s lover (Is he honest? Maybe, maybe not!). Their escapades, though dangerous, are thoroughly entertaining. Vicky’s boss, known mostly as Schmidt, who fancies himself as a Sherlock Holmes, always manages to find them wherever a “case” is happening and in this book his appearance is very fortuitous and surprising. The character of Schmidt is charming, funny, generous; he pictures himself as Vicky’s protector. I am reminded of an old (black & white) film actor, S.Z. (Cuddles) Sakall.

This time out a body has gone missing; not an ordinary body but one that has been dead for thousands of years, and the race is on. Not only must they find the body in extremely limited time, but they must prove that John is innocent of masterminding the theft. The question is, how could it be done and where would such a thing be hidden? Theories abound and are eliminated, delicate political and archaeological balance is threatened. The suspect list is large and complicated. I recommend this book to anyone who likes to enjoy the action and humour, a light but interesting read. I always learn something new in Elizabeth Peters’ books and this book did not disappoint.

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