Arriving in Cairo for another thrilling excavation season, Amelia is relaxing in a well-earned bubble bath in her elegant hotel suite in Cairo, when a man with knife protruding from his back staggers into the bath chamber and utters a single word—"Murder"—before collapsing on the tiled floor, dead. Among the few possessions he carried was a sheet of paper with Amelia’s name and room number, and a curious piece of pasteboard the size of a calling card bearing one word: "Judas." Most peculiarly, the stranger was wearing a gold-rimmed monocle in his left eye.
It quickly becomes apparent that someone saved Amelia from a would-be assassin—someone who is keeping a careful eye on the intrepid Englishwoman. Discovering a terse note clearly meant for Emerson—Where were you?"—pushed under their door, there can be only one answer: the brilliant master of disguise, Sethos.
But neither assassins nor the Genius of Crime will deter Amelia as she and Emerson head to the excavation site at Amarna, where they will witness the discovery of one of the most precious Egyptian artifacts: the iconic Nefertiti bust. In 1345 B.C. the sculptor Thutmose crafted the piece in tribute to the great beauty of this queen who was also the chief consort of Pharaoh Akhenaten and stepmother to King Tutankhamun.
For Amelia, this excavation season will prove to be unforgettable. Throughout her journey, a parade of men in monocles will die under suspicious circumstances, fascinating new relics will be unearthed, a diabolical mystery will be solved, and a brilliant criminal will offer his final challenge . . . and perhaps be unmasked at last.
Sadly this is the last Amelia Peobody novel as Elizabeth Peters passed in Aug. 2013. Also sadly, Ms. Peters had only started writing the final page at the time of her passing, but left a lot of notes which Joan Hess used to complete the novel. I don't know if any were on the story or dialogue or just on the background (the discovery & disappearance of the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti)
It reads like fan fiction. Not very good fan fic either. It's like somone said on Goodreads; it as if the book were written by someone who only heard about the novels, never read them. Characters are out of character or almost parodies of themselves. Somone on Amazon listed many examples. There's a pack of assassins running around in almost comical fashion & the Peabody/Emerson clan's enemy Sethos (mater criminal & master of disguise) seems almost shoehorned in. Frankly, I'm not sure I really cared for the character anyway.
Titles of Previous Amelia peabody novels were randomly added to conversations for no good reason other than this is the 20th novel in the series. It's kind of like when all of those nods to previous Bond movies were in Die Another Day for the franchise's 40th anniversary. I very nearly stopped reading it. but I bravely plowed though to the end.
I didn't notice a change to the Avalon series by Marion Zimmer Bradley after her passing. but maybe it's because; 1. Diana L. Paxson was her co-author on the last 3 before Bradley passed. 2. I had not re-read the series at least twice like I have with the Peabody series. 3. Was not in the middle of yet another re-read of the series like I am with this one. 4. Or a big fan of the avlaon series like i am with the peabody series.
tl;dr Only read this novel if you want to complete the series. but it might disappoint fans of the amelia peabody novels.