Review: River in the Sky, Elizabeth Peters

I have a girl-crush on Elizabeth Peters.  She set a murder mystery at a romance novel writers’ convention; she spoofs H. Rider Haggard and Gothic novels; she made one of her characters lament “the first sour grape in the fruit salad of togetherness”.  The woman cracks me up.  However, I thought that Children of the Storm should have been the last in the Amelia Peabody series (it gave me the pleasing feeling that the series had come full circle), and I have not cared much about the books that came after that.

But I liked River in the Sky.  It is set in Palestine in 1910 (so right before Falcon at the Portal) and deals with that thing of the Germans trying to get all buddy-buddy with the Muslim world in the run-up to World War I.  I have been interested in this ever since Jill reviewed Like Hidden Fire, which is a nonfiction book on this very topic.  The Emersons become involved in all sorts of intrigue and deception with German spy rings in Palestine.  Ramses gets into a scrape (as he does), and David goes after him (as he does), and, well, it just felt like reading one of the old books for the first time.  In a good way!

My one thing was, where was Nefret all this time?  She hardly had anything to do!  I mean I do not care about Nefret, but if she’s not going to have anything to do, I say leave her home.  She could be, I don’t know, hanging out with Lia all summer.  Learning sexy religious dances in the Lost Oasis.  Studying medicine.  I don’t care, actually, what Nefret gets up to when she’s offscreen, but if she’s going to be around, she should have a role in the plot.

I should really go read Like Hidden Fire.  I bought it in hardback for fifty cents at the Jefferson Parish book sale.

In order to create some transition, however awkward, INTO MY GRIEF AND PAIN, let me reiterate that Children of the Storm would have been a good place to stop writing books in sequence.  Children of the Storm took place in 1919 and 1920, and 1920 is the same year that Justice John Paul Stevens was born (on 20 April, the day of the year I call Day Most Likely for College-Age Me to Get a Headache Because the Jackass Sitting in Front of Me is Countercultural Enough to Smoke Pot on 4/20 Day But Not Countercultural Enough to Just Skip Class), and y’all, JOHN PAUL STEVENS IS LEAVING THE SUPREME COURT.

I am very sad about it, and I believe he will be difficult to replace.  On the other hand, it makes total sense that this should happen now.  Descriptors I would use for John Paul Stevens include: brilliant, old, was in a war, liberal-leaning, and wears a bow tie.  You know who else I would describe using all of those words?


See, the world plainly has room for only one brilliant ancient war-veteran liberal-leaning bowtie-wearer at a time, and Justice Stevens has recognized that his time is over.  How else can you explain the timing?

15 thoughts on “Review: River in the Sky, Elizabeth Peters

  1. I only do Elizabeth Peters in paperback so I won’t get to this one for a while — but I’m glad for the change in locale.

    And try having an April 20th birthday …

    some random stoner: “oh dude, did you know that’s 4/20?”
    me: “no sh*t, you stupid stoner.”

    I’ve had that exchange WAY too many times.

    • Yes, the change in locale was fun, although I did wish we’d seen more of the German’s work to influence the Muslim world. But I liked having the Emersons spend some time away from Egypt.

      Poor you! But I think that sort of thing is like having an early May birthday which falls during exams – sucks during college, but then once you’re away from college, it’s not really a problem anymore.

      (I did hate having my birthday during finals though.)

      • Well, there’s this essay in When You Are Engulfed in Flames in which he chronicles his inept fashion sense through the years, then talks about how he decides to take up bow-tie wearing as an attempt to have an appropriately authorial middle-aged style. Then he tells the response it gets for him at readings, from women, which is puzzling, and trying to decide exactly what it all means. Finally his friend tells him in one sentence exactly what wearing a bow tie declares to the world. I can’t tell you, because the whole essay is build up. If I just said it, you’d say, “No!” The essay makes it pretty convincing.

        If you REALLY want to know, you can find the quote a bit more than halfway down this page:

      • And I thought of you today:we were working the Deans Fellows weekend, and a very abrasive 1L was annoying me, and wearing a bow-tie. I would have been worried, but, fortunately, he was in no way awesome, and your comments comforted me, because instead of sitting there fuming, I could sit there being indignant and superior, thinking who do you think you are, cause whatever you think, you are nowhere near so cool as a supreme court justice or the Doctor.

        Little brat. He annoyed me his weekend too, but then I just figured he was annoying because he was nervous and trying to impress us so he’d get in. Now, I’m feeling less charitable.

  2. How not to love Elizabeth Peters? Growing up, my best friend was desperate to become an Egyptologist, so the Amelia Peabody books were required reading. Sad to hear that Nefret is ignored but, not going to lie, I will probably be so busy adoring Ramses that I might not notice.

    • Hahaha, yup, that was pretty much my response too. Him and David. I love it when Ramses gets in trouble and David is all “My brother! I will go after him!” Bless ’em. I think David was such an excellent addition to the series.

  3. I should try Elizabeth Peters again. I got an audio book out of the library that was about no. 12 in the series with Amelia Peabody (that is right? with Nefret the daughter-in-law – I cannot recall all the names) and I felt I’d done the wrong thing by plunging into the middle of a series. I don’t always feel that way in series but I had such a strong sense of discombobulation with this one, as if I’d gone to a dinner party as a stranger amongst a group of tremendously good friends. I should perhaps start at the beginning.

    • Oh, yeah, I would definitely recommend starting at the beginning. If for no other reason than the first book is extremely amusing. Plus it’s fun watching everyone grow up. Crocodile on the Sandbank is first, and it always makes me smile.

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