The Laughter of Dead Kings by Elizabeth Peters

 

MysteryThe Laughter of Dead Kings by Elizabeth Peters The Laughter of Dead KingsElizabeth Peters; Harper 2009WorldCaVicky Bliss and John Tregarth are visited by their friend Feisal, the Inspector of Antiquities for all Upper Egypt. They are shocked to learn that someone  boldly entered the Valley of the Kings and stole King Tut’s mummy from his tomb in his pyramid. No one except Feisal and the man guarding the tomb at the time are aware of the theft. Feisal hopes they can get the mummy back before a ransom is demanded or, worse, his boss discovers the theft. He came to John and Vicky because the theft has the marks of the retired notorious art thief, Sir John Smythe. The couple knows it wasn’t Smythe – because John himself was Smythe and has gone straight. Someone appears to be trying to frame him.

They have to go to Egypt to clear John’s name. Vicky’s boss, Professor Schmidt, invites himself along. Since they keep doubling back on themselves and leaving possessions behind, Vicky appreciates Schmidt’s largess. Because of him they end up in exclusive hotel rooms, receive superb service, and obtain a great new wardrobe. Because of them, Schmidt loses his love, is chased, camouflaged, in the sword fight of his life, and, perhaps, finds a new love. Together, along with Feisal, they have to find the missing mummy, avoid a ransom, and clear John’s name.

The Laughter of Dead Kings is the last Vicky Bliss novel published before Elizabeth Peters (real name Barbara Mertz) died this year. It reintroduces Vicky and her friends in a well crafted, enjoyable mystery. It is full of action, Vicky’s trademark humor, and twists as reader follow along the trail.

Peters highlights one of the foibles of human beings. King Tut’s mummy is kidnapped in The Laughter of Dead Kings. Yet Feisel, his cousin, and most Egyptians involved in the story refer to the mummy of the long dead king as “him” rather than it. One man is killed and another attacked while trying to regain the king’s remains. Vicky contemplates the importance of one revered, but decaying king, versus the newly dead family man who leaves behind a wife and children. If it is learned the mummy was stolen, Egypt “could be ruined” socially. But what about the man’s family? Do they believe a mummy, even Tut’s, was worth his life? We humans understandably revere ancient symbols. But we don’t always remember the important of the present as well.

Ms. Mertz will be missed. She leaves a legacy of books that are great (and some that are fair – what can I say?). The Laughter of Dead Kings is one that fits within the great books. If you haven’t met Vicky Bliss, you may want to read earlier books in the series to learn more about the characters. At the same time, it’s not necessary. The Laughter of Dead Kings stands well on its own.

More books by Elizabeth Peters
Vicky Bliss series

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