Amelia and family have arrived in Egypt for the 1911 archaeological season, and Amelia ends up investigating a theft of ancient artifacts and the death of an American found at the bottom of an excavation shaft. As accusations of drug dealing and moral misconduct fly, a child of mysterious antecedents sparks a crisis that threatens to tear the family apart.
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March 31, 2000
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Excerpt from The Falcon at the Portal by Elizabeth Peters
They attacked at dawn. I woke instantly at the sound of pounding hooves, for I knew what it meant. The Beduin were on the warpath!
"What is it you find so amusing, my dear " I inquired.
Nefret looked up from her book. "I am sorry if I disturbed you, Aunt Amelia, but I couldn't help laughing. Did you know that Beduins go on the warpath Wearing feathered headdresses and waving tomahawks, no doubt!"
The library of our house in Kent is supposed to be my husband's private sanctum, but it is such a pleasant room that all the members of the family tend to congregate there, especially in fine weather. Except for my son Ramses we were all there that lovely autumn morning; a cool breeze wafted through the wide windows that opened onto the rose garden, and sunlight brightened Nefret's gold-red hair.
Reclining comfortably upon the sofa, Nefret wore a sensible divided skirt and shirtwaist instead of a proper frock. She had become as dear as a daughter to us since we rescued her from the remote oasis in the Nubian Desert where she had spent the first thirteen years of her life, but despite my best efforts I had been unable to eradicate all the peculiar notions she had acquired there. Emerson claims some of those peculiar notions have been acquired from me. I do not consider a dislike of corsets and a firm belief in the equality of the female sex peculiar, but I must admit that Nefret's habit of sleeping with a long knife under her pillow might strike some as unusual. I could not complain of this, however, since our family does seem to have a habit of encountering dangerous individuals.
Hunched over his desk, Emerson let out a grunt, like a sleepy bear that has been prodded by a stick. My distinguished husband, the greatest Egyptologist of all time, rather resembled a bear at that moment: his broad shoulders were covered by a hideous ill-fitting coat of prickly brown tweed (purchased one day when I was not with him) and his abundant sable locks were wildly disheveled. He was working on his report of our previous season's excavations and was in a surly mood for, as usual, he had put the job off until the last possible moment and was behind schedule.
"Is that Percy's cursed book you are reading " he demanded. "I thought I threw the damned thing onto the fire."
"You did." Nefret gave him a cheeky smile. Emerson is known as the Father of Curses by his admiring Egyptian workmen; his fiery temper and Herculean frame have made him feared throughout the length and breadth of Egypt. (Mostly the former, since as all educated persons know, Egypt is a very long narrow country.) However, none of those who know him well are at all intimidated by his growls, and Nefret had always been able to wind him round her slim fingers.