The Last Camel Died at Noon

Author: Elizabeth Peters

Professor Emerson makes a habit of deriding his wife, Amelia Peabody Emerson, for her taste in literature–particularly thrillers like those of H. Rider Haggard. Little could he know how like one of those novels his own family’s life will become for a while as they find themselves called away from their archaeological dig in the upper Nile area of Nubia. . . . Called by no less than a note from a friend of his who disappeared with his young wife into the desert nearly 15 years before. Fortune seems to despise the Emersons as they travel west toward the rumored hidden civilization this friend had been seeking–their workers desert them, their camels die off as if poisoned, and even their water supply eventually runs out. But still, they press on into the adventure with the indomitable spirit (and stubborn pigheadedness) that characterizes Amelia, the Professor, and Ramses equally.

The Last Camel Died at Noon might just be my favorite of Peters’ Amelia Peabody stories; if not, it’s definitely up there. While all of these stories are adventure/mystery/thrillers of a sort (and quite an excellent example of such), this particular volume is very intentionally modeled after Haggard’s classic stories of adventure. Thus, it has a slightly different feel, while still maintaining the personalities of the characters perfectly–I really enjoy the “lost civilization” sort of setting, and Amelia’s reactions to it. The combination of confirmed history (like the opening of Nubia behind the army’s advance) with something more legendary is interesting, as is the author’s use of the lost city to show what ancient Egyptian/Meroitic life might have been like. The story’s also full of plots, evil rulers, mysterious maidens, and other classic adventure story elements. And I must confess, one of my top reasons for preferring this volume is that Ramses is old enough to really be involved (quite cleverly) and to be adorably smitten; plus it’s Nefret’s intro volume (she’s probably my second favorite character in the series right after Ramses). I think that for anyone who enjoys an exciting story but who demands quality writing, The Last Camel Died at Noon is an excellent choice.

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