Review: The Painted Queen by Elizabeth Peters and Joan Hess

Format: hardcover
Pub Date: July 2017
Publisher: William Morrow
Length: 323 pages
POV: 1st past, with occasional 3rd in the form of Manuscript H

I started reading the Amelia Peabody series in college. There is just something about them that is so compelling. The series runs from the late 19th century through World War I and ends with the discovery of King Tut's tomb. This series is my comfort read series. The first is a solid Novel with Romantic Elements book.  Back in 2013, I even led a read along on Twitter, but stopped midway following the death of Elizabeth Peters that year.

When Peters passed away, it was well known that she was working on a new manuscript, although her fans were never quite sure how far she had progressed on it. I assumed we'd never see that book, but I was happy to hear that her estate was working to get it finished and into the world.

If you have not read the series, this is absolutely NOT the book to start with. Although each story is a standalone mystery, this series was NEVER about the mysteries. Those have always been secondary to the relationships, and there are multiple arcs that should be read in order. If you're just starting the series there are two ways to read it: as it was published or chronological. After Peters finished the Tomb of the Golden Bird, she went back and started publishing "in between" books that covered archaeological seasons she had skipped. The Painted Queen is one of those "in between" books, taking place between Falcon at the Portal and He Shall Thunder in the Sky.

My biggest gripe about the book is that Sennia, the "daughter" Ramses is supposed to have fathered in Falcon at the Portal who is later revealed as the daughter of someone else, is completely absent from the narrative. Given that it is her appearance that causes Nefret to run off and get married to Geoffrey Godwin, I found it profoundly odd that she isn't mentioned. Not even a passing reference that I could find.

My other gripe about the book is that I would have liked more Manuscript H. I'm a romance reader at heart, so the Ramses/Nefret drama was always the most compelling part for me. The parts that are here are oddly lacking in angst. It's weird.  I can only assume that Peters left very little of it before she passed and Hess didn't feel like trying to deal with the emotional heft of that relationship given where in the narrative this book appears.

 If you're new to the series, start at the beginning with Crocodile on the Sandbank. If you're a long time fan, you'll want this book. It's a good filler book between the two giant books of the series, and the mystery is almost madcap/farcical which is a nice change. It's with a bit of melancholy that I closed the very last Peabody book. Hard to believe it's really, truly over.

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