The Daily Bongo

Mummy Dearest

The latest book that I read is the new Claire Malloy book written by Joan Hess. The book is titled Mummy Dearest and is set in modern day Egypt. Claire Malloy travels to Egypt with her daughter Caron, and her daughter's friend, Inez, to celebrate Claire's honeymoon. Claire was married to cop, Peter Rosen. Now Peter has been recruited to work for a mysterious government agency. Clair spends most of her honeymoon alone with the kids and motley crew of eccentric characters while Peter shows up sporadically between training sessions with the Egyptian police. As Claire is dragged into an investigation of the kidnapping of a glamorous college student by two Egyptians on horseback, dead bodies start to pop up, and it becomes obvious to both Peter and Claire that something is afoot. With a total lack of consideration for her own safety, Claire plays Miss Marple to solve the mysterious events.

The book is dedicated to Barbara Mertz, who wrote the Amelia Peabody mysteries in the name Elizabeth Peters. Mummy Dearest is not only dedicated to Dr. Mertz, it is also a homage to Mertz and the Peabody mysteries. As I read through the story, I was caught by the many references to the Peabody books. First the elderly hotel worker who takes care of the suite where Claire and her family stay is named Abdullah. This is the same name of the revered foreman at the Emersons' excavations. Throughout the books, Abdullah frequently gives Amelia Peabody advice, often with a cryptic comment. Abdullah, the housekeeper, does the same to Claire Malloy. Lady Emerson is one of the characters in the books, and this reference is very straightforward. Lady Emerson is the granddaughter of Amelia Peabody and Radcliffe Emerson and has made her fortune publishing the manuscripts of her ancestor. References are made throughout the book to Master Criminals, which again are a hallmark of the Peabody mysteries. It was quite entertaining to read through the book and pick out the Peabody references. I'm sure that some enterprising sole will come up with a drinking game for the book. Take one sip when the name Abdullah is mentioned, two for Master Criminal, three for Lady Emerson, etc.

The book is entertaining, and there is a good deal of humor in it. I just had trouble recognizing it as anything other than a Peabody parody or homage. The plot was very reminiscent of the Peabody mysteries. The mystery and the ultimate solution to it were a smidge on the weak side, and the solution definitely was a reach. Master criminals and secret organizations abound. It was an enjoyable, light summertime read, and I would definitely recommend it and the Amelia Peabody mysteries, especially the earlier books.

One point that I would like to add is that I would love to have Barbara Mertz be my tour guide in Egypt. Dr. Mertz has a Ph.D. in Egyptology and has written two popular books on the topic, Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphs and Red Land, Black Land (also referenced in Mummy Dearest). Not only does Dr. Mertz know what she is talking about, but also she is admired by others in the field who give her insider access to areas. Also, it just seems from the books Dr. Mertz has written and the interviews that she has given that Dr. Mertz is a remarkably fun person to hang out with.

June 9, 2008