A priceless relic has been delivered to the Emerson home overlooking the Nile. But more than history surrounds this golden likeness of a forgotten king, for it is said early death will befall anyone who possesses it. The woman who implores the renowned family of archaeologists and adventurers to accept the cursed statue insists the ill-gotten treasure has already killed her husband. Further, she warns, unless it is returned to the tomb from which it was stolen, more will surely die. With the world finally at peace -- and with Egypt's ancient mysteries opened to them once more -- Amelia Peabody and her loved ones are plunged into a storm of secrets, treachery, and murder by a widow's strange story and even stranger request. Each step toward the truth reveals a new peril, suggesting this curse is no mere superstition. And the next victim of the small golden king could be any member of the close-knit clan -- perhaps even Amelia herself.
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March 31, 2006
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Excerpt from The Serpent on the Crown by Elizabeth Peters
He woke from a feverish sleep to see something bending over him. It was a shape of black ice, a tall featureless outline that exuded freezing cold. He tried to move, to cry out. Every muscle was frozen. Cold air touched his face, sucking out breath, warmth, life.
We had gathered for tea on the veranda. It is a commodious apartment, stretching clear across the front of the house, and the screens covering the wide window apertures and outer door do not interfere with the splendid view. Looking out at the brilliant sunlight and golden sand, with the water of the Nile tinted by the sunset, it was hard to believe that elsewhere in the world snow covered the ground and icy winds blew. My state of mind was as benevolent as the gentle breeze. The delightful but exhausting Christmas festivities were over and a new year had begun-1922, which, I did not doubt, would bring additional success to our excavations and additional laurels to the brow of my distinguished spouse, the greatest Egyptologist of this or any age.
Affectionately I contemplated his impressive form-the sapphire-blue eyes and ebon hair, the admirable musculature of chest and arms, half bared by his casual costume. Our son, Ramses, who had acquired that nickname because he had the coloring of an Egyptian and, in his youth, the dogmatism of a pharaoh, sat comfortably sprawled on the settee, next to his beautiful wife, our adopted daughter, Nefret. Faint cries of protest and distress drifted to our ears from the house the dear little children and their parents occupied; but even Nefret, the most devoted of mothers, paid them no heed. We were well accustomed to the complaints; such sounds always accompanied the efforts of Fatima and her assistants (it took several of them) to wash and change the children. It would be some time before the little dears joined us, and when a carriage drew up in front of the house I could not repress a mild murmur of protest at the disturbance of our peace.
Emerson protested more emphatically. "Damnation! Who the devil is that?"
"Now, Emerson, don't swear," I said, watching a woman descend from the carriage.
Asking Emerson not to use bad language is tantamount to King Canute's ordering the tide not to surge in. His Egyptian sobriquet of "Father of Curses" is well deserved.
"Do you know her?" Emerson demanded.
"Then tell her to go away."
"She appears to be in some distress," Nefret said. Her physician's gaze had noted the uncertain movements and hesitant steps. "Ramses, perhaps you had better see if she requires assistance."
"Assist her back into her carriage," Emerson said loudly.
Ramses looked from his wife to his father to me, his heavy black eyebrows tilting in inquiry. "Use your own judgment," I said, knowing what the result would be. Ramses was too well brought up (by me) to be rude to a woman, and this one appeared determined to proceed. As soon as he reached her she caught hold of his arm with both hands, swayed, and leaned against him. In a breathy, accented voice she said, "You are Dr. Emerson, I believe? I must see you and your parents at once."
Somewhat taken aback by the title, which he had earned but never used, Ramses looked down at the face she had raised in entreaty. I could not make out her features, since she was heavily veiled. The veils were unrelieved black, as was her frock. It fit (in my opinion) rather too tightly to a voluptuously rounded figure. Short of prying her hands off his arm, Ramses had no choice but to lead her to the veranda.