Book: “The Last Camel Died at Noon” by Elizabeth Peters
Publishing Info: Warner Books, 1991
Where Did I Get this Book: the library!
Book Description: Amelia and her dashing husband Emerson set off for a promising archaeological site in the Sudan, only to be unwillingly drawn into the search for an African explorer and his young bride who have been missing for 12 years.
Review: And we’re back for another Amelia Peabody mystery! (I have decided that I need to begin pacing myself with these books so that I can better relish the experience and save them for low reading points when I know I can depend on the next one to be a solid, fun read that might get me out of a slump!)
This book marks a distinct change up in the typical rhythm and flow of previous Amelia Peabody novels, and I found it to be a welcome change! The book description for this one is very light, so…depending on your sensitivity for spoilers, I may be giving a way more of the plot early on in this review just to set the stage some, since, as I said, it’s a step away from the usual narrative.
So, yes, Amelia, Emerson, and Ramses (much to Amelia’s annoyance, as she wanted him to got to boy’s school, but they wouldn’t take him. Shocker!) are back on another excavation. Or, at least, that’s what they had planned on doing until they become caught up in the search for a lost African explorer which leads them to discover a lost civilization hidden in the desert. While it is an archeologist’s dream location, having been cut off from society for centuries and thus still retaining much of ancient Egyptian culture in its arts, history, and religion, the Peabody/Emerson family end up entangled in the middle of a political battle they do not understand and which could have deadly results!
I really enjoyed this change to the story. While I was still greatly enjoying the series as a whole, the last book did feel a bit too familiar during the murder mystery section and seemed to need to resort to relationship drama to keep things fresh (not my favorite remedy). But here, Peters recaptures the magic by creating a mystery that does not revolve around murder, but around political intrigue and cultural misunderstanding.
I particularly enjoyed the clever way she kept readers off balance with the ever-changing and evolving alliances and motivations for different parties involved. There were many points in the story where I was legitimately thrown on who to believe about what, and given that this is well into the series, I count this as a big accomplishment! The side characters are all interesting and appropriately double-faced at times, leaving readers guessing, along with Amelia and Emerson, over who to trust.
There were also several layers to the story alongside the mystery (an escape attempt!) that added to the narrative in a unique way for this series. There is also the introduction of a new character towards the last third of the book who seems to be set up to play an even greater role in the story going forward, and I am particularly looking forward to seeing how this will evolve.
The one detractor I have for the story is, surprisingly, again perhaps a lack of page time for Ramses! For a character who I started out on the fence about, Ramses has grown to be one of my favorite characters, and this makes two books in a row where his role seems more minimized. But I have strong hopes for that changing in the future.
Overall, I think this book is a particularly strong entry in the series. It shows a marked difference in plot, highlighting that Amelia is great in any circumstance and thus opening up the door for many new adventures. And a new character is added who may play an important role going forward and bring many new elements to the story. If you have enjoyed the series thus far, definitely don’t skip this book!
Rating 9: I really enjoyed the new setting and change in narrative this book brings to the series!
“The Last Camel Died at Noon” is included on these Goodreads lists: “Lost World Narratives” and “Agatha Mystery Award Nominees and Winners.”
Find “The Last Camel Died at Noon” at your library using WorldCat.
Previously Reviewed: “The Crocodile on the Sandbank” and “The Curse of the Pharaohs” and “The Mummy Case” and “Lion in the Valley” and “Deeds of the Disturber”
9 thoughts on “Serena’s Review: “The Last Camel Died at Noon””
The Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters is my favorite. I’m glad to see you are reviewing it. Thank you!!
The mysteries, the humor, and the very accurate description of Egyptology at the turn of the previous century are excellent. Elizabeth Peters (Barbara Mertz) was not only a prolific writer, but had a degree in Egyptology, which made her very much the expert. She is very popular with the archaeological set…
I do hope you read the books in Chronological order (rather than publishing order… there are a few books published later which filled in gap years). You will get a better sense of the characters and events.
Here’s the list of Amelia Peabody books in chronological order (including the book that will soon be published posthumously):
Crocodile on the Sandbank (1884-1885)
Curse of the Pharaohs (1892-1893)
The Mummy Case (1894-1895)
Lion in the Valley (1895-1896)
Deeds of the Disturber (1896)
The Last Camel Died at Noon (1897-1898)
The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog (1898-1899)
The Hippopotamus Pool (1899-1900)
Seeing a Large Cat (1903-1904)
The Ape Who Guards the Balance (1906-1907)
Guardian of the Horizon (1907-1908)
A River in the Sky (1910)
The Falcon at the Portal (1911-1912)
The Painted Queen (1913)
He Shall Thunder in the Sky (1914-1915)
Lord of the Silent (1915-1916)
The Golden One (1916-1917)
Children of the Storm (1919-1920)
Serpent on the Crown (1921-1922)
Tomb of the Golden Bird (1922-1923)
Oh, thank you for the very comprehensive list! I think up to this point I must have lucked out with the publishing order following the chronology of the story, but I like the idea of reading them in the order you’ve laid out. That’s a debate that many readers have often: to read in publishing order or chronological! Which comes first in the Narnia series? And GO! 🙂