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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Multiple Motives Mystify Amelia, 3 May 2004
This review is from: Children of the Storm (Amelia Peabody) (Paperback)
Before commenting on this novel, let me observe that it would be an unhappy error to begin the 15 book Amelia Peabody series with Children of the Storm. You would have a very hard time keeping track of all the characters and the mystery's solution would be totally invisible to you before the solution is revealed. You would probably rate this a one or two star book.
My rating assumes that you have read at least the last 8 novels in the series.
The setting and cast of characters are a major shift from the books in the series set during World War I. With the War to End All Wars having ended, all of the Emerson clan (and I do mean ALL) come together in Children of the Storm. Ramses and Nefret are now parents of active two-year-old twins, so the family has also expanded into a third generation. Those with faulty memories will appreciate the Editor's Note which describes who all these people are and how they are related.
The book opens in Luxor with Cyrus Vandergelt concerned about how much of his large archeological find involving four princesses will have to be presented to the Cairo Museum. The Emersons are working on a messy site with seemingly limited potential which looters and poorly disciplined archeologists have ravaged in the past. M. Lacau from the Department of Antiquities arrives to inspect the Vandergelt artifacts and mummies. Soon he will choose what will remain in Egypt. Consternation reigns when "reformed" antiquities thief, Signor Martinelli, disappears as do several of the best pieces of ancient jewelry. The Emersons vow to recover the jewelry before M. Lacau discovers it is missing. Their search takes them to Cairo where Ramses responds to a note offering a warning only to find himself abducted, drugged and manipulated by a beautiful young woman dressed as the Veiled Goddess Hathor. As the mystery develops, there are mysterious deaths, attacks on individuals, sabotage of conveyances and a reappearance of Hathor in Luxor! Amelia and the rest of the clan are more than usually puzzled. They cannot see a pattern in what purpose could lie behind the baffling activities. When the pattern becomes clear, there's deadly danger to overcome and an exciting finish!
Children of the Storm is exceptional from two perspectives. First, the title captures a myriad of meanings in the context of the story that will enrich your appreciation of the story. Nicely done! Second, I cannot think of a novel that weaves so many characters and story lines together with accuracy and meaning. It must be like carrying the world on your shoulders to plot and develop this complex a story. And it works.
Some things are lost in the process. The story often feels over peopled. This requires a lot of development to fit everyone together in a meaningful way. This development sometimes feels bulky. In addition, a third of the book's length is caught up with details of day-to-day life like looking after for the children, arranging work schedules to appease Emerson, organizing Nefret's clinic in Luxor, and dealing with Emerson's latest toy. The mystery itself would have required about 250 pages, and would have been a page turner. The mystery feels diluted amidst all of this detail of daily life.
The Emersons focus on domesticity also limits the amount of detecting they do compared to earlier novels. So you get less of Emerson's investigative derring-do in Cairo, fewer forays by Amelia on her own, and limited searching by Ramses and David. Sethos plays his mildest role yet even though he is involved throughout the book.
As a result, much of the material in the book feels more like The Forsythe Saga than an early Amelia Peabody thriller. In fact, the book almost felt like a whole new genre . . . the three-generation extended family as detective.
A bright light to look out for in future novels is that the twins seem destined to be very interesting characters which may ignite all of this clan expansion into something more exciting.
After you finish this book, think about how you balance your family, your friends, your work, and your personal interests. How could you make them more positively integrated?
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