The Painted Queen

In 2013, Barbara Mertz died.

Mertz had earned her doctorate in Egyptology from the acclaimed Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. Writing under the pen name Elizabeth Peters, she created the popular mystery series featuring archeologist Radcliffe Emerson and his wife, Amelia Peabody.

Prior to her death, she had started a final Amelia Peabody story, which, quite appropriately, centered around Egypt’s most famous queen – Nefertiti.

The unfinished work, “The Painted Queen” (William Morrow/322 pages) was completed by mystery writer Joan Hess, a member of the Sisters in Crime and past president of the American Crime Writers League.

In 1912, Emerson and Amelia have returned to Egypt to begin excavations. While enjoying a bath in her suite at the elegant Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo, Amelia’s relaxation is interrupted by a man wearing a gold-rimmed monocle who stumbles in her room uttering the words “You” and “Murder” and collapses with a knife in his back.

The slain man carried in his pocket a pair of cryptic calling cards containing the words “Judas” and “Octavious Buddle.”

In the midst of this murder mystery, Emerson and Peabody are faced with another crime — someone is creating forgeries of the ancient sculptor Thutmose’s greatest work — the bust of Queen Nefertiti.

As her extended family hunt down copies of the Nefertiti statue, Amelia finds herself the target of the Godwin brothers, who blame her for the death of their sibling, Geoffrey.

While the reader will not be surprised as to the identity of the chief of the murderous Godwin clan, the allure of ancient Egypt and the charming story telling of Elizabeth Peters (artfully replicated by Joan Hess) is a fitting finale to the Queen of the Egyptian mystery.

Rest in peace, Barbara Mertz, your books are a wonderful tribute to the land of Pharaohs.