Laughter of Dead Kings

Elizabeth Peters
2008, Mystery
William Morrow, $25.95, 336 pages, Amazon ASIN 0061246247
Part of a series

Grade: B-
Sensuality: N/A

Laughter of Dead Kings is the long-awaited final episode in Elizabeth Peters' Vicky Bliss series. While I found it to be an enjoyable read, my appreciation must be placed within the context of being a longtime fan of Ms. Peters' Amelia Peabody series, as well as a more recent fan of this one.

Vicky Bliss is an American art historian who works at a museum in Munich when she's jaunting around the globe solving mysteries. Vicky is a tall, gorgeous blond, who became romantically involved with the mysterious art thief John Tregarth early in the series. As this book begins, John is now a retired thief, and the two have settled into a somewhat more traditional albeit long-distance relationship. Instead of stealing art, John now owns a store in London that sells valuable art objects. But things are never simple for Vicky and John.

An acquaintance from her past appears at Vicky's home to let the two know of a serious problem: King Tut's mummy has been stolen and John is being framed as the mastermind behind the theft. Vicky and John have only a limited amount of time to find the real culprit and return King Tut to his tomb. Soon, the two are bouncing from Munich to London to Berlin, and finally to Egypt to track down the missing mummy.

A number of characters from past books become involved in the mystery - most notably, Vicky's boss Schmidt joins them in their travels. Schmidt has always played a prominent part in the books, with him acting almost as Vicky's father. I find him fun in small doses, as he is definitely an over-the-top character. However, I would have preferred to have seen him a bit less and John a bit more. That being said, there was a wonderful revelation about Schmidt late in the book that took me completely by surprise.

Ms. Peters handled the gap in time since the last book was published in 1995 in an interesting way. Rather than having the characters age by over 10 years, she chooses to ignore the time gap, and treat this book as if it were occurring just a few months after the previous entry. Much to my surprise, this worked for me. It also allowed Vicky and company to use cell phones, text messaging, the Web, and all manner of conveniences that didn't really exist in earlier entries.

This is definitely mystery-lite. There are no graphic descriptions of violence, and no scenes told from the villain's point of view. In fact, the entire story is told from Vicky's perspective.

There have been rumors on the Web for years alluding to a relationship between John and the Emersons (the main family in the Amelia Peabody series). Without going into details, those rumors did come true. In fact, Vicky and John encountered numerous sites in Egypt where Amelia Peabody visited and lived.

I don't think this book would be quite as enjoyable a read for someone who has not read and loved - the Amelia Peabody series. I also don't feel it would work well as a stand-alone book in the Vicky Bliss series. However, if you're a long-time fan of both of these series, this should be an enjoyable read for you.

-- LinnieGayl Kimmel

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