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by Tasha Alexander
Minotaur, October 2022
320 pages
ISBN: 1250819695

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In her new biography of Agatha Christie, Lucy Worsley doesn't so much reveal new facts about the writer's life as she provides fresh insights by looking at a familiar subject from a new perspective. On a different scale but in a similar fashion, Tasha Alexander does the same thing in the latest installment of her Lady Emily series, SECRETS OF THE NILE.

In this novel, Alexander spins a cozy mystery set primarily in Egypt of 1904. A group of friends, including Lady Emily's mother-in-law, has gathered at the antiquities-filled home of Lord Bertram Deeley. The group includes, among others, an archaeologist, a down-on-her-luck aristocratic lady with her long-suffering companion, a doctor, a politician and his wife, and Lord Deeley himself. A recognizable group, indeed, for anyone familiar with cozies of the Golden Age—as is the setting. And then there's the death by cyanide poisoning and clues implying that almost everyone in the closed circle has a motive to murder the victim. All that's needed is a bit of archaeology and a clever detective to complete the picture, and Alexander provides both. But she also includes a mystery set in ancient times, giving readers a glimpse into the lives of the artists who built and adorned the Pharaohs' tombs, as well as those of the British men and women who explored—or merely visited—them.

Alternating between the two time periods and the two stories, Alexander weaves a tale that is, ultimately, interconnected and goes a bit beyond the expected, which adds interest overall. But all of the expected elements are also well executed and fun to watch unfold. The reader may figure out who the killer is before Lady Emily's final revelation (in a dining room rather than a library, but still on point), but that doesn't detract from the enjoyment of following the clues and action to the end.

SECRETS OF THE NILE isn't a fast-paced page turner, but it's a nice addition both to the Lady Emily series and to the tradition. Readers familiar with the Lady Emily series will see more character development than those who haven't read the previous novels, simply because some of the relationships among characters deepen, but the novel itself isn't too concerned with deep character development: it's more about an entertaining puzzle and a bit of escapism, and it works perfectly well as both. There's no need to have read previous novels in the series to enjoy SECRETS OF THE NILE, but Lady Emily and her family are interesting and likable enough to encourage readers to follow their adventures in both previous and—we hope—future books.

§ Meredith Frazier, a writer with a background in English literature, lives in Dallas, Texas

Reviewed by Meredith Frazier, April 2023

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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