When she passed away in 2013, Barbara Mertz—the real name of Elizabeth Peters—was working on an Amelia Peabody novel.
It’s been a long seven years since readers had a new story about Amelia, the daring, witty, parasol-toting Englishwoman whose adventures have taken her across Egypt through 19 novels and one nonfiction companion volume, Amelia Peabody's Egypt: A Compendium.
Amelia Peabody novels were launched in 1975 and featured a large array of family, friends, allies, and characters both fictional and based on historical figures.
Egyptologist Barbara Mertz knew her history and lore and included much about Egypt in her novels. The series started in 1884 and moved up through 1923. In addition to solid mystery plots, her novels also featured a good share of humor, romance and even a parody of Victorian-era adventure novels.
At the time of Mertz’s death, the 20th installment, The Painted Queen, was in the editing stages.
Now, The Painted Queen is set to be published on July 25. Mertz’s longtime friend and award-winning mystery writer, Joan Hess, finished the manuscript.
Hess used extensive notes and conversations with Mertz to complete The Painted Queen in Mertz’s style.
The Painted Queen will be the last novel in the Amelia series.
Although The Painted Queen is the 20th entry in the series, it actually was supposed to be the 14th, chronologically, as it takes place in 1912.
In The Painted Queen, Amelia and her archeologist husband Radcliffe Emerson are back in Egypt for another excavation season. Before they head to the field, they want one more night of comfort, so the couple retires to their favorite hotel for an elegant dinner and crisp sheets. The next morning, Emerson is at the Service des Antiquities to sort out their plan, while Amelia is taking a bubble bath. But just as she has eased into the tub, a man staggers into the bath chamber clutching his throat, gasping, “Murder” before collapsing to the floor.
The Painted Queen of the title refers to the iconic bust of Queen Nefertiti, chief consort of Pharaoh Akhenaten and stepmother to King Tutankhamun.
During her 50-year career, Mertz received numerous writing awards, starting with her first Anthony Award for Best Novel in 1989. Other honors include grandmaster and lifetime achievement awards from the Mystery Writers of America, Malice Domestic, and Bouchercon. In 2012, she was given the first Amelia Peabody Award, created in her honor, at the Malice Domestic convention.
Joan Hess is the author of the Claire Malloy Mysteries and the Arly Hanks Mysteries. She is a winner of the American Mystery Award, the Agatha Award, for which she has been nominated five times.
Finishing another’s manuscript or continuing a series after an author’s death has become an industry standard. Ace Atkins does a terrific job carrying on Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series. Also, Reed Coleman has picked up the mantle for Parker’s Jesse Stone novels.
Robert Ludlum novels have been continued by Gayle Lynds, Philip Shelby, Patrick Larkin, Eric Van Lustbader, James H. Cobb, Kyle Mills, Jamie Freveletti, Douglas Corleone, and excuse me if I have overlooked a couple.