A RIVER IN THE SKY By Elizabeth Peters [Review]

A River in The Sky book

As a huge fan of Elizabeth Peter’s Amelia Peabody Series, I purchased A RIVER IN THE SKY, the 19th Amelia Peabody adventure without even reading the flyleaf on the book. The story, set in 1910, sends Amelia, her husband Emerson, and their family not to their usual setting of Egypt, but to the Holy Land at the request of Military Operations in London. The Crown suspect an amateur archaeologist digging in Jerusalem actually a spy for the Germans and ask the Emersons to check up on his dig. Meanwhile, Ramses, Amelia’s son, is already working in Samaria and is knee deep in trouble, the target of possible assassins and it isn’t long before both cases come crashing together.

A River in the Sky posed something of a problem for me as a long time reader of the series. When Peters first began, the Amelia books were something of a send up of the classic Victorian Adventure and her very wordy descriptions “his deeply sapphire orbs” and the silliness of the overly occult ideas and bad guys common in Victorian novels—spiritualists, reincarnation and wandering mummies all of course disproved and “sent to justice” by our heroes. For some reason this style gave way to a more traditional adventure/mystery series, although they still retained some of their original flavor. (Emerson, her husband will always be “the greatest Egyptologist of this or any age.”) While I enjoyed the earlier works, I am a fan of the later. And therein lies the problem.

This new book is an odd amalgam of the two styles. In fact it “feels” almost like part was written before she began changing styles. So the parts of the book featuring Amelia and Emerson are in the earlier style and the chapters “From Manuscript H” featuring Ramses and his best friend David are in the later style. When the two finally meet in Jerusalem it is a little odd at times, one style giving way to another from one page to the next.

Thinking I made a mistake on my first greedy read through, I went back and reread A River in the Sky, and came away with the same feeling. In fact, the second time through I found myself cheating a little and skipping ahead to the chapters “From “Manuscript H”. That was not just because Ramses Emerson is one of my all time favorite literary characters. It was because those parts of the book had a more genuine feel to them, a depth of story and held my interest in a way the other half did not. The parts featuring Amelia and Emerson were, frankly, a little disappointing.

A River in the Sky is by no means the strongest entry in the delightful series, and while I would recommend it to fans, I would have a few reservations in recommending it wholeheartedly to first time readers of the series.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars | Publisher: William Morrow | Pages: 307 pages | Buy on Amazon

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  • Vonnie

    Wonderful review. Not being familiar with the series, but very much being a fan of the genre, it made my mouth water to give this series a try. I will follow the recommendations though and not start with this particular book, but rather give book one a read. Thanks for the insightful review.

  • Mish

    I am busy reading “And he shall thunder in the sky” and am already intrigued by the wonderful characters and settings that Elizabeth Peters conjures. I must say that as a fan I find this review insightful and interesting and it will definitely prepare me for “A River in the Sky” when I finally read it. Thank you.