Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Laughter of Dead Kings

Elizabeth Peters' fans have waited fourteen years for the concluding volume in the Vicky Bliss series. The Laughter of Dead Kings is the book readers hoped would link Peters' two popular series, the Amelia Peabody books, and the Vicky Bliss mysteries. Was Vicky Bliss' lover, the notorious thief, "Sir John Smythe", related to the Peabody-Emerson family? The book answers the question, but readers are tortured for over three hundred pages before the family mystery is solved.

While Vicky Bliss works in Munich as an art historian, her lover, John Tregarth, has given up his former life as a thief of antiquities. He's now an antiques dealer in London. However, when a revered Egyptian treasure disappears, John is the natural suspect for the daring theft. Even a friend, Feisal, the "Inspector of Antiquities for all Upper Egypt", suspects John. And, Vicky's boss, Herr Doktor Anton Z. Schmidt, has his doubts. Everyone thinks John is once again the mastermind behind a bold theft. Suddenly Vicky, John, and the motley crew are in a mad dash to find the treasure and the actual thief.

The problem is, the mad dash goes on, and on, and on. This story is so drawn out that it gets boring. It's a romantic caper, with little romance. Peters herself says, "Ashraf is being followed by John who is being followed by Suzi who is being follwed by Feisal and us? This is ludicrous." Yes, it is. The mountain of material readers have to plow through to get to the conclusion is ludicrous.

Some readers will be satisfied with The Laughter of Dead Kings. I've read and admired Peters' books under this name, and Barbara Michaels. This one let me down. The answer is there, telling everyone if John is connected to the Peabody-Emerson family. It's just too bad the answer wasn't at least 100 pages earlier in this unsatisfactory series conclusion.

Elizabeth Peters' website is

The Laughter of Dead Kings by Elizabeth Peters. HarperCollins Publishers, ©2008. ISBN 9780061246241 (hardcover), 336p.


Kay said...

Lesa, I'm beginning to think that some authors just lose steam with their characters. Maybe some series just continue too long or maybe some authors wait too long to get back to certain characters. What do you think?

Lesa said...

I think so, too, Kay. And, sometimes they really don't want to go on, but their fans push them for another book. In this case, it might not have even been the publishers as much as the fans.

In contrast, tomorrow I'm talking about Dorothy Simpson's Luke Thanet series, a series that had an appropriate ending, but ended way too soon for her fans. Now that you say it, maybe that's better than going on too long.