Book Review: The Last Camel Died At Noon

The Last Camel Died At Noon (Amelia Peabody #6), by Elizabeth Peters

Having been pleased at the previous volume and the way that it expanded the goings on of the Emerson family, this book thoughtfully continued the same pace, although it presents the reader with a less satisfying adventure than could have been the case because so much of it is spent in such confined territory, the fact that the novel clearly echos the writings of Haggard (like King Solomon’s Mines), and the secretive nature of the plot and its resolution that forces the characters to keep much of what they have seen and learned private in order to preserve the secrecy of the society of refugees that are at the heart of this book.  While the author does a good job in expanding the efforts of the Emersons in understanding the area around Egypt, this time sending them to Nubia in search of more pyramids to dig and also in search of a lost Englishman who sent missing during the rise of the Mahdists in Sudan.  Of course, the English military finds itself involved and there are murders and plotting, of course, and the characters are still in denial about being busybody amateur sleuths, which means the series will go on for longer before they truly admit what is going on.

By this point in the series you likely know at least some of what to expect.  All of the members of the Emerson family are very intelligent and able to figure out what is going on relatively quickly, even the repellent Ramses.  Of course, this particular book finds them engaged in some hurry up and waiting situations, as they arrive in Nubia having exhausted (so they think) the main archaeological areas in Egypt and looking to expand, even into somewhat active war zones like northern and central Sudan (the author even gets some credit for mentioning Darfur).  After doing a bit of exploration and attempting to become familiar with the local Nubian language, the Emersons find themselves being whisked off to an area that time forgot where Nubian refugees of longstanding, a daughter of the missing Englishman, and local people considered to be slaves or even animals, all present the Emersons with the threat not only of death due to political violence but even being stuck and unable to return to the outside world, which is something that will simply not be borne.

Ultimately, this book has a generally happy ending and those readers who have enjoyed the series as a whole will likely find the author’s tribute to Haggard to be a humorous one, as King Solomon’s Mines [1] is mentioned several times within the text as a running joke of sorts.  While the plot of the story is certainly interesting, the idea that Sudan could hold a place for refugee Nubians to forget about the destruction of their homeland and avoid the exploitation of Arabs and Arabized northern Sudanese tribes is just about as plausible as the existence of Wakanda.  The fact that the book details the Nubian elites as being no great humanitarians themselves allows the reader to see and be frustrated by Amelia Potter’s evident “socialism” in desiring to uplift the downtrodden native peoples, something which could have gotten her killed and would have made the series a lot shorter, no doubt.  Contemporary readers are likely to be far more in sympathy with Amelia than would have been the case at the time when the series is set, one of those ways in which anachronism serves to color our view of the past if I ever saw it.


About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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