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THE LAUGHTER OF DEAD KINGS
By Elizabeth Peters
Wm. Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins, Sept. 2008 ($25.95)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Vicky Bliss is back! The art historian/amateur sleuth we first met in 1973 is still, through Petersí use of the "current now," in her early thirties. She is working at the National Museum in Munich. "Sir John Smyth," the international art thief she crossed paths with on various adventures is now reformed and using his true identity, as a titled peer of the realm. He and Vicky are very much an item, although no permanent arrangements have been made. One reason is that John is concerned that some of his acquaintances from the bad old days may come back to harm her, but Vicky ainít buying it.
John and Vicky are having a quiet evening at her place when several visitors show up, putting an end to the tranquility they were hoping for. Feisal, the Inspector of Antiquities for Upper Egypt, rushes in, on the verge of hysteria. Unknown parties have, for as yet-unknown reasons, kidnapped one of Egyptís most famous treasures on his watch. He hopes to keep the theft a secret from his bosses, and begs for help from his friends and former partners in crime solving, Vicky and John. Before he can exit the apartment, two more visitors arrive -- Vickyís boss at the museum, Doktor Anton Schmidt, and Suzi Umphenour, a young American woman with a badly-kept secret. Sheís an agent for a government agency, but Vicky and John donít know which one. What Vicky does know is that Suzie has been on the trail of master criminal "Sir John Smythe" for a long time, and catching him would be the highlight of her career. Doktor Schmidt, a genial, rotund fellow, has a great many interests and contacts. He sees himself as a great detective, with Vicky as his Dr. Watson. Vicky doesnít see things the same way, but she is fond of the old guy. Pretty soon, all the parties involved are off on a multi-country quest to restore the missing treasure.
What ensues is a fine blend of adventure, romance, mystery, history, travel, and just plain fun. Readers who have long suspected there might be a connection between these modern-day characters and the stalwart Emerson clan will find out if theyíve guess right. Fans of both series will not be disappointed in this long-awaited book.
Most of the players in this story came together in Vickyís last adventure, NIGHT TRAIN TO MEMPHIS, published in 1994. Because that excursion, in which Vicky posed as an Egyptian art expert on a Nile cruise to help Munich police thwart the planned robbery of the Cairo museum, is referenced so often in this story, it might help to re-read Night Train before starting this one. I didnít, but I still thoroughly enjoyed the story. And I do plan to re-read Night Train ASAP. Then I might go back and re-read Laughter -- itís the kind of series that gets better with each reading.
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