My mom is a real connoisseur of mystery novels. She reads several a week, and despite that speed, she can remember them all. One of her favorite writers is Elizabeth Peters (not to be confused with Ellis Peters, who she also loves), so when I saw an Elizabeth Peters book on the library shelf, I thought I’d enjoy a little virtual time with Mom and pick it up.

A River in the Sky tells the story of Amelia Peabody Emerson, her husband “Emerson,” and their children – Ramses (they are Egyptologists), David, and Nefrette. The family, through a series of events involving spies and a potential, misguided hunt for the Ark of the Covenant, ends up in Jerusalem where there are kidnappings, murder, and general mystery-like intrigue. The plot is, in fact, rather lame.

But as Mom said when I asked her about why she loves Peters so much, it’s not the plot but the characters that make these books so fun. Amelia Peabody is hysterical, with her “trusty parasol” and Macgyver-like belt of medicines, flashlights, and other items that become invaluable when stuck in an ancient tunnel. Her husband Emerson has a temper but is all the more lovable for the many ways that Amelia has to “rescue” him. Ramses speaks a million languages and seems like the kind of guy you’d really like once you were done being insanely jealous of his intellect. The characters are, as Mom said, “well-rounded and fun,” and they’re personalities drive the book forward.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes the kind of personalities found in the works of the great mystery writers like Dorothy Sayers or Agatha Christie. And if you’re into archaeology, you might enjoy them, too.

Cover of A River in the Sky by Elizabeth PetersA River in the Sky by Elizabeth Peters