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Mummy Dearest: A Claire Malloy Mystery    by Joan Hess order for
Mummy Dearest
by Joan Hess
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2008 (2008)

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* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Joan Hess is the accomplished and popular author of sixteen previous Claire Malloy mysteries, and at the outset of Mummy Dearest, her seventeenth novel featuring the irrepressible bookstore owner and amateur sleuth from Faberville, Arkansas, Hess warmly dedicates the book 'with love and respect to Barbara Mertz (who also goes by the aliases Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels).'

With the stage having thus been set, and with the title clearly telegraphing some of the mystery's inevitable content (but don't jump to conclusions because this book has nothing to do with Joan Crawford of that other Mommy Dearest fame), readers (especially fans of Elizabeth Peters) ought to be able to surmise their inevitable destination: Egypt.

And so it is that Claire Malloy, when Mummy Dearest begins, is in Luxor, Egypt. She is ostensibly there on her honeymoon, having recently married Peter Rosen, but he is unable to commit himself fulltime to all of the fun and games of post-wedding bliss as he is otherwise kept busy much of the time at the outset by traveling throughout Egypt to investigate the rumors of military Islamist terrorist threats in Luxor. Claire, however, is not alone all of the time; as unlikely companions on her post-nuptial getaway, she is joined by her seventeen year old daughter Caron and her daughter's young friend Inez Thornton.

Well, quicker than you can find a way of saying cozy mystery, adroitly funny, wicked murder, and Egyptology in the same sentence, the author introduces a wide range of wacky characters who share the pages with Claire, Peter, Caron, and Inez; not even Agatha Christie could have come up with a more eclectic group of supporting characters. Then, with all the players in place, Mummy Dearest moves from being a charming account of a singular honeymoon in the Land of the Pharaohs, and - in a style typified by the best of either Agatha Christie or Elizabeth Peters - the novel becomes a compelling plot-driven mystery in which stalkers, kidnappers, and killers conspire to make a newlywed's holiday in Egypt more than little unusual.

Overflowing with local Egyptian color and archeological details, Mummy Dearest includes plenty of excitement, more than a few dead bodies (of the mysteriously and freshly-killed species rather than the dusty and mummified variety), a caravan full of oddball characters, an abundance of wry humor, and - of course - an absolutely delightful amateur sleuth, Claire Malloy.

Here's the bottom line: Mummy Dearest is a lot of fun. Don't miss it!

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