Elizabeth Peters draws together a variety of influences to produce a somewhat Victorian, somewhat adventure-y caper novel that owes to Jane Austen, Arthur Conan Doyle, and pulp romantic adventure writers all at the same time. And it takes its flavor from its unflinching portrayal of the experience a strong-willed woman of means as she wanders through a cultural milieu whose customs are misogynistic in creepy, persuasive, and insidious ways.
The protagonist's poor regard for men has been the grounds for some criticism of Peters' Ameilia Peabody series in the past, but just speaking as one male listener I found the whole book amusing and entertaining, if not quite as fast-paced in plot as an adventure piece not imbricated with so many other novelistic strands. In the end, I kind of like Amelia, though I know she would despise me because I can wear pants whenever I want.
In fact, I probably like her well enough to join her for the _Curse of the Pharoahs_, the next book in the series. Given that it's read by Barbara Rosenblatt, it seems that you can count on an enjoyable number of hours sprinkled in with acerbic comments about men and gender roles and frequently entertaining dialog.
I was more entertained by the first book than I would have predicted, given that it's 30 years old and is rather demeaning to those of us with y-chromosomes. Perhaps I have a high tolerance for that sort of thing, but I think Rosenblatt's channelling of Amelia can be awfully entertaining. I'll be curious to see if the next book has a tighter plot and even more of the enjoyable chemistry between the principal characters.
This book is a worthwhile sequel -- definitely worthwhile if you read and enjoyed the first book. I found the plot to be unconventional, lacking the traditional kinds of drama found in this genre, but I also found it quite engaging as it was, meandering through highs and lows without having a core conflict. The characters are interesting, and a number of them are developed enough to offer compelling subplots. Picking up with Kate and Mitch from the previous novel makes it easy to slide into caring about the characters.
The biggest drawback in this audiobook is the fact that the reader, whose voice is deep and clear, adopts a reading style in which virtually every sentence is read as though it is the most dramatic moment in the novel. This over-emoting is unbelievably distracting, at least at first, and makes it hard sometimes to stomach large doses of the audio. It's unfortunate, because it's not the most dramatic book -- and a straighter, more even-keeled delivery would fit the narrative well. However, in this case the producer got it wrong and gave terrible direction to the reader. It is this aspect alone that makes the audiobook hard to recommend.
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