A River in the Sky by Elizabeth Peters

riverReviewed by Caryn St. Clair

A River in the Sky, the nineteenth book by the author with protagonists Amelia and Emerson Peabody, is slightly different from the rest of the series in a couple of ways. First, the book is chronologically out of order. Set in 1910, the book falls about midway through the rest of the Peabody books. Secondly, unlike the rest of the books that follow the Peabody clan as they travel and work in Egypt, A River in the Sky is set mostly in Palestine. Both of these deviations from the norm work well.

As the book opens, Peabodys’ son Ramses is in Samaria working on a dig near Jerusalem. Some unexpected visitors show up at the dig and ask specifically for Ramses to show them around. Aside from their sudden appearance at the dig, there are other things about them that strike Ramses as wrong. And Ramses being every bit his parents’ child, investigates. Meanwhile, Emerson and Amelia are at home in England preparing to travel to Palestine at the request of the British government. An English adventurer has mounted an expedition to search for the lost treasures of the Temple of Jerusalem-a move that is sure to create a major protest from all three religions who hold the sites in the area as sacred. Also, the British War Office is concerned that Morley, the adventurer, is really working for the Germans. The ensuing story weaves Peabodys’ trip and Ramses’s investigation together. Thrown into the mix is David who goes off on his own to find Ramses, major characters being kidnapped and a number of characters who turn out to be not quite as advertised. In other words, for the most part standard fair for this series.

While the basic plot elements and characters are similar to the other Peabody books, setting the book in Palestine in the years leading up to World War I made it a cut above the most of the rest of the series. The German presence in the area, and the motivation behind that presence made it a perfect fit to blend the predictable elements of the Peabody books with the author’s need to give readers a taste of the political climate of the time.

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