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Tuesday, Nov 13, 2018
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'Dead Kings' A Royal Treat For Sleuth Fans

"The Laughter of Dead Kings," by Elizabeth Peters (William Morrow. $26) Welcome back, Vicky Bliss! The intrepid sleuth has been combining her work as an art historian with various capers ("Silhouette in Scarlet," "Night Train to Memphis," "Trojan Gold") to recover lost art treasures since - well, it's impolite to ask a woman how old she is. Still, the author addresses this indelicate question in her foreword, where she suggests that while Vicky was not yet 30 in the first novel of the series (published in 1973), in the "current now" of this latest, Vicky is still only in her mid-30s. She writes, "So how do we writers explain the inconsistencies and anachronisms? We don't. We can't." Happily, the reader doesn't spend very long pondering the mechanics of time and fiction but is instead propelled headlong into a zany romantic suspense story: A famous and irreplaceable Egyptian object has been stolen from a tomb in broad daylight, and one of Vicky's closest friends is being framed. Or perhaps not, as Sir John Smythe's retirement from the world of art theft is always at question.
Vicky and John high-tail it for the burning sands of Egypt in hot pursuit of the lost treasure, with a cast of villains and friends who will be familiar to fans of the long-running series (and - spoiler alert! - to fans of Peters Amelia Peabody series). The novel offers a reliable trademark mix of action, well-researched history and snappy dialogue. For readers new to Vicky's sassy and distinctively smart stories, "The Laughter of Dead Kings" will mark the start of a beautiful friendship.

Amy Smith Linton of Tampa is a freelance writer.

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