The Falcon at the Portal: An Amelia Peabody Mystery by Elizabeth Peters


Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

The Falcon at the PortalBecause Joan Hess was contracted to finish a manuscript left upon Elizabeth Peters’ death, some of the earlier books are being released. The Falcon at the Portal is the eleventh book in the series and just past the midpoint of the books completed by Peters. For faithful readers, it is a good book to reread to sort of jump back in with the extended Peabody clan. That said, of all the books in the series, it happens to be the one I enjoyed the least.

The year is 1911 and the extended Peabody family arrives in Egypt ready to set up for another season digging artifacts. But there are a few flies in the ointment almost from the beginning. Artifacts have turned up on the black market and David Todros, who married into the Peabody family is suspected of at least involvement if not the actual theft and sale. And then there is the matter of the dead American at the bottom of the pit. Of course Emerson and Amelia spring into action trying to uncover who is responsible and why this happened in both crimes.

Through it all, the best of the series shines through. Historically, the books shine a light on the way so many of Egyptian treasures ended up in museums around the world. Even though by today’s standards even the Peabodys’ work would be suspect, by the standards of the early 1900’s they would have been among the most above board archaeologists in the country.

So why is this my least favorite of the series? The relationship between young Ramses and Nefret has been edging closer to soap opera territory for a couple of books now and in this book it completes that journey. Ramses, the Peabodys’ son and Nefret, the young girl the Peabodys took in after rescuing her from a tribe a few books back, clearly have had feelings developing for one another for a couple of books. In The Falcon at the Portal those feelings seem to be ready to emerge-until they don’t, or at least not for long. It is maddening.

In spite of my quibbles with the book, it is still a good tale and makes for an interesting visit to early twentieth century Egypt.