The Ape Who Guards the Balance (Amelia Peabody Mystery #10) by Elizabeth Peters
Back home in London and far away from the tombs of Egypt, The Ape Who Guards the Balance begins with Amelia Peabody and her rambunctious son, Ramses, amidst a Women’s Social and Political Union protest. Fighting for women’s rights to vote, Amelia is willing to chain herself to the fence surrounding 10 Downing Street in a demonstration fueled by anti-women suffrage. When the protest turns sour, and a collection of protesters storm the Member of Parliament’s home while in disguise, matters turn extra curious when said member and his staff are found tied in the home with all of the MP's Egyptian antiques stolen. Amelia immediately identifies this as the signature work of The Master Criminal named Sethos. However, Sethos was thought to be dead (if I'm not mistaken his "death" took place in book #7, The Snake, the Crocodile and the Dog).
Yet, apparently, it appears he’s alive and working his way through a new system of antiques thievery and racketing. And, as always, working new tricks at seeking love-lost revenge toward Amelia and her family–beginning with an abduction attempt on Amelia herself. Fortunately, things don’t go as Sethos has planned. So Amelia and her family follow through with their departure to Egypt in search of a permit to dig at a much sought-after digging site. Of course Sethos hangs closely to the family all the way to Egypt to further his shenanigans. And there goes the first portion of the book’s plot…
… the second and third portion follows the stories of Amelia’s son, Ramses, and his best friend, David acquiring an ancient scroll of the dead from an antiques dealer. Of course, this move attaches trouble linking back to Amelia’s problems with Sethos. Then the third portion of storytelling follows Amelia’s adopted daughter Nefret. She sets about trailing after the boys (Ramses and David), as well as finding herself confronting her own problems. Or some mess. I lost interest in both stories, really.
…And I. Was. Bored. Until I arrived at page 112 and finally decided this isn’t it. The wit, whimsical, and crafty writing/dialogue was there per usual with this series. Peters is always great at humor, and the banter between characters usually are fun. Yet, in this case, I found every single character just plain obnoxious. Nefret was being Nefret. Ramses was Ramses. Amelia and Emmerson–same. Uppity and sarcastic Edwardian flavor and all.
It was just a dense, sluggish read that got thicker and thicker until I had to skip the alternative narratives outside of Amelia Peabody’s first-person perspective to “move” through the book. And what hurt matters most–to me–was the lack of a murder mystery traditionally seen in this series. If there was one, I couldn’t keep my eyes open long enough to arrive at that point. Because for sure the whole stolen Egyptian antiques “thriller” wasn’t winning. Additionally the reemergence of Sethos, a character I wish was gone forever books ago, furthered killed my vibe. I found his mustache-twirling, cape-swinging, tie-the-damsel-on-the-train-tracks ass annoying immediately after his debut in book number 3 or 4 (hell, I forget because Peters insisted on using him as a villain for a number of books). Sethos is the master of disguise. He can go anywhere and do anything, while simultaneously putting nasty little plot leaks in each story he appears in. That's why I was over him books and books ago. And it only got worst when his apprentice took over and followed directly into his footsteps.
And now... he's BACK!? Nooooo, thanks.
Basically the ennui for this series has officially sat in–after all. And now I’m done bitching. I have an alternative that fits my Book Raiding Tbr written by the same author. It’s a stand-alone with absolutely no relation to the Amelia Peabody series. Most likely dated, considering it was published in 1971, I have The Night of Four Hundred Rabbits.
An unexpected "gift" has arrived for Carol Farley this Christmas: an envelope with no return address containing a newspaper clipping. Blurred but unmistakable is a photo of a man missing for years and feared dead—Carol's father. It is a summons calling her to a world she has never known, to a place of ancient majesty and blood-chilling terror. Surrounded by towering pyramids on Mexico City's Walk of the Dead, a frightened yet resolute young woman searches for a perilous truth and for the beloved parent she thought was gone forever. But there are dark secrets lurking in the shadows of antiquity, a conspiracy she never imagined . . . and enemies who are determined that Carol Farley will not leave Mexico alive.
See? I'm trying to make this Book Raiding TBR work. Hee-hee.