Thursday, 25 October 2001

Elizabeth Peters: Seeing a Large Cat (1997)

Edition: Chivers, 1998 (Buy from Amazon)
Review number: 973

Each of the now lengthy list of Amelia Peabody novels is a light, enjoyable mystery set against the background of late nineteenth century archaeology in Egypt, memorable for the opinionated proto-feminist narrator. By this point, her son Ramses, for long the focal point of much of the series' humour, has nearly grown up (at sixteen), and her "memoirs" are now supplemented by excerpts from a "manuscript" by him, which gives a very different view of what is going on.

The plot bears some similarity to the story of the supposedly Persian mummy from Pakistan which turned out to be a modern body. Here, Peabody and her husband find a body which is more obviously recent, and this sets her off on a trail of detection combined with interference in the affairs of everyone around her. Enough explanation is given for cross references to make sense even to a newcomer to Peters or to someone, like myself, who has only read a selection, though it is clear that there would be something to be gained by greater familiarity with the earlier Peabody novels. All of Peters' writing is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, the Peabody novels rather less so than some, and here the trademark sharp dialogue is in evidence combined with a plot complex enough for a serious thriller; it is one of the best in the series.

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