NOON.Elizabeth Peters.Warner.352...

THE LAST CAMEL DIED AT

August 25, 1991|By MYRON BECKENSTEIN BRIGHT CAPTIVITY Eugenia Price. Doubleday. 631 pages. $20.

THE LAST CAMEL DIED AT NOON.

Elizabeth Peters.

Warner.

352 pages. $18.95. H. Rider Haggard read Stevenson's "Treasure Island" and was inspired to write "King Solomon's Mines." Elizabeth Peters read "King Solomon's Mines" and was inspired to create Amelia Peabody Emerson.

Mrs. Emerson, America's favorite fictional Victorian archaeologist, is back, still having more of a taste for adventure and for sex than suits a proper Victorian lady. She also has a husband and a son, Ramses, now 10, and once more they have returned to brave the Egyptian deserts of 100 years ago.

This time they find themselves in a position to gather information on the lifestyles and intrigues of the ancient Egyptians. Unfortunately, their position is as captives of a lost ancient Egyptian people.

The book has Ms. Peters' usual affectionate takeoff on Victorian novels, the usual scattered silliness, the usual treasure trove of archaeology, lots of authentic color, the usual wonderful Emerson family. Why don't his parents ever listen to Ramses? Thankfully, the Master Criminal has disappeared.

One flaw is the cover, which purports to show the Emersons. They don't look anything like they should and the publisher should not have tried to interfere with our better visions of them.

Sure the book would make a nice movie, but why wait for the movie? Eugenia Price is quite a woman: At 75, she has 36 historical novels -- including three best-selling series -- to her credit. Now the indomitable Ms. Price has launched yet another series -- the Georgia Trilogy.

The War of 1812 is in its final days. The protagonist is Anne Cooper, daughter of a prominent Georgia family. While attending a party on an island off the Georgia coast, a contingent of British Royal Marines invades the island. The mission is to free the slaves and incite a rebellion to divert the Americans' attention. Among the British soldiers is Lt. John Fraser. Anne and John fall in love, get married, and must decide whether to live in London or tend the family plantation in Georgia.

Sad to say, there isn't much more in "Bright Captivity" than that. The characters are uniformly pleasant, understanding and bland. There is almost no struggle other than trying to decide where Anne and John will live, and the novel is heavily padded with countless scenes reminding the reader how much Anne and John love each other, and with long discussions of house furnishings. For more than 600 pages, that does not seem to be much of a return.

EILEEN POWER

THICKER THAN WATER.

Bruce Zimmerman.

HarperCollins.

290 pages. $19.95.

Hank Wilkie and his wife, Carol, are suspicious when Nigel Brambley tells them that they've inherited Marty Greene's million-dollar estate, Seven Altars, so they enlist the aid of their friend, Quinn Parker. Parker, who debuted in Bruce Zimmerman's well-received first novel, "Blood Under the Bridge," flies to Priest River, Jamaica, site of the fabled Seven Altars.

Here the plot of Mr. Zimmerman's second novel, "Thicker Than Water," becomes sinister, as Parker, phobia therapist and amateur sleuth, learns more. Greene was shot 12 times in the head because of his underworld connections. One of those connections is his lawyer, Brambley, a.k.a. Bongo -- member of the Rastafarian cult. Stephanie, Greene's seductive widow, has connections of her own. These include Russell, Stephanie's ne'er-do-well brother; Meredith, his lover; Norman, American expatriate; Jana, Norman's friend who swims in the nude; two seedy-looking Jamaicans; and a ghost.

When Parker discovers that Russell has plans to develop Seven Altars into a multimillion-dollar resort, he thinks he's cleared up this elegantly plotted, fast-paced mystery. But he hasn't.

DIANE SCHARPER

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