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Seeing a Large Cat: 11/16/07
Seeing a Large Cat marks a change in the narrative style of the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters. Starting with this volume the mysteries balloon from two hundred fifty pages to almost five hundred pages. The main source of these extra pages is the "manuscript H" which is apparently written by Walter "Ramses" Emerson.
Over the course of the second half of the series (where Ramses, Nefret and David are adults), the writing style of "manuscript H" improves as does the manner in which it is integrated into the over all narrative. In this first attempt, though, the "manuscript H" inserts interrupt the flow of the story and stall the start of the actual mystery until page 125.
The mystery itself is rather simplistic once all the family drama of the early days of the rivalry and romance of Ramses and Nefret and the historical background of 1903 Egypt are pared away. A woman is found in an unknown side tomb of KV-20 (called tomb 20-A in the novel). The woman is mummified but her modern dress quickly gives away the fact that she was only recently murdered. Eventually the plot progresses enough for Amelia et al to investigate, get in trouble, need rescuing and finally escape of their own accord. Unfortunately these action scenes are buried under long dull passages. There are times when Amelia Peabody needs to be gagged.
A huge hindrance to the pacing is the tedious attention to detail. Peters (Barbara Mertz) is a trained Egyptologist and probably knows the Valley of the Kings as well as I know my local neighborhood. It helps to come to these later novels with a basic knowledge of the history (both ancient and recent) and geography of Egypt.
The other problem with the novel is Peter's growing love affair with her characters. She has become so enamored with the Emersons and their kith and kin that every single character has to be lovingly followed and described. This love affair only gets worse as the series progresses.