Even a novelist with thirty-five books under her belt would find it difficult to finish someone else's series, set in a relatively unfamiliar part of the world and a century earlier than the fictional world one has created for oneself. More difficult still if the author was a close friend. So it's no surprise that Joan Hess
initially said no when the agent she shared with Elizabeth Peters
suggested that Hess complete the manuscript for The Painted Queen
, 2017). Fortunately for fans of Amelia Peabody, Radcliffe Emerson, and their numerous and ever-expanding family, the agent supplied enough vodka and carrot cake to swing the deal.
In this last adventure, set in 1912, Peabody and Emerson have barely set foot in Cairo before the first death occurs: an unknown man wearing a monocle who collapses just inside the door of the bathroom where Peabody is soaking off the grime of her train ride from Alexandria. There is no question that the death is murder, and discovering the identity of the corpse, the reason for his carrying a card bearing the single word Judas, and the hand behind the knife that has dispatched the unwanted visitor consumes Peabody and Emerson even as they devote some of their attention to the excavation that has brought them to Egypt. The culprit could be the Master Criminal, defending Peabody from harm. Or it could be the representative of a secret society of monocle wearers.
As Peabody and Emerson, with help from the junior members of their extended family, strive to figure out what's going on, they must also deal with less deadly intrusions from a missionary named Dullard and the ineffable Ermintrude de Vere Smith, writer of racy romance novels, as well as a disappearing archeologist and an apparently nonstop succession of forgeries purporting to be statues of Nefertiti--the Painted Queen. It all makes for a deliciously entertaining sendoff to a much beloved series, one that Peabody and Emerson fans should not miss.
C. P. Lesley is the author of six novels, including
Legends of the Five Directions (The Golden Lynx, The Winged Horse, and The Swan Princess), a historical fiction series set in 1530s Russia, during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible. Find out more about her at http://www.cplesley.com.