DOG.Elizabeth...

THE SNAKE, THE CROCODILEAND THE

October 11, 1992|By MYRON BECKENSTEIN @IN MY FATHER'S HOUSE. E. Hunter Wilson Jr. Johns Hopkins University. 274 pages. $18.95.

THE SNAKE, THE CROCODILE

AND THE DOG.

Elizabeth Peters.

Warner Books.

340 pages. $19.95. To a high-spirited person, adventure can be addictive. At the beginning of Elizabeth Peters' latest report on the doings of Amelia Peabody Emerson, the eminent British Victorian archaeologist is moaning how quiet things have become. Several times before the novel ends, she comes close to regretting that thought.

Clearly, the adventure that befell her when she and her husband returned to Egypt was more than she bargained for. After all, she is merely adventure-loving, not psychotic.

"The Snake" is a reprise, in a way, of some of the Emersons' past six adventures, with old friends, enemies and locales playing key parts. Complicating everything is that her gruff, difficult-at-best husband is abused by villains to the point of partial amnesia. He can remember most things, but not her or their 12-year marriage.

Clearly more than she bargained for.

But not to be deterred -- was she ever? -- she sets out to solve that problem while they try to solve all the other problems too.

The main problem is that someone keeps trying to kidnap them to learn the secret they uncovered in the last book but won't reveal.

Each chapter is preceded by a quotation from "The Collected Works of Amelia Peabody Emerson" (8th edition), such as, "When one is striding bravely into the future, one cannot watch one's footing" and "Martyrdom is often the result of excessive gullibility."

2& "The Snake" is Amelia at her best. "I'm doing a lot of surgery. I hope I'm doing well. But I lack heart," Dr. Clay Hallam had written to his estranged wife, Anne. Dr. Hallam is one of the central characters in this first novel, "In My Father's House." Here, E. Hunter Wilson Jr., of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, looks at what goes into the making and the unmaking of a doctor.

The action occurs in the late 1980s and flashes back to the 1930s, with much of the story set in Baltimore, at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The plot focuses on the relationship that develops between two doctors. Clayton Hallam, retiring chief of neurosurgery at Hopkins, suffers what appears to be a stroke as delivers his retirement address. He is treated by young Jim Gallier, an intern at Hopkins. During the long weeks of his convalescence, Dr. Hallam tells Dr. Gallier the story of his coming of age as a surgeon. He describes the demands of medical school and the way those demands nearly destroyed his personal life.

If this thought-provoking, somewhat overly written story is autobiographical, then the book seems to be a cautionary tale.

DIANE SCHARPER

SING TO THE SUN.

Ashley Bryan.

HarperCollins.

30 pages. $15; all ages.

While this is Ashley Bryan's first book of poetry, many will say his stories are always poetic. His illustrations are beautifully filled with golds, and reds, and all the colors of the rainbow. He writes about people of color -- Africans, Jamaicans, Islanders of the Caribbean -- whom he authentically portrays in words and paintings.

In the 23 poems, Mr. Bryan captures the rhythms of the Caribbean Islands: of its ocean beaches, breezes, sunshine and moonshine. To the wind, the poet's voice calls: Don't blow so wild!/You're chasing the clouds/You're whirling/and swishing and swirling/the sea! Over and over, the voice entreats the hurricane winds until the wind listens: And quiets the sea.

His poems describe favorite people -- "My Dad," "Storyteller," "Granny" -- and certainly himself in "The Artist": He knows/that to have/Anything he loves/He can have it/Fair and forever/If he paints/a picture of it. And now Mr. Bryan can add: Or if he writes a poem about it.

Always interested in his own heritage and the stories and spirituals and folklore of African Americans, he speaks to every child in "Ancestry": Singing songs/Telling stories/Reminding us of our ancestry.

JUDITH B. ROSENFELD

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