The Jackal's Head - Elizabeth Peters This was an enjoyable read, but it wasn't spectacular. Despite the sense of urgency in the last 100 pages with Tommy locked in a tomb, and she doesn't know what part of the country she's in, without food or water and waiting for a murderer to come back (and I would think the dehydration for the 12 or so hours in the hot, dry air would have had more of an impact), I didn't feel the urgency that much. Usually when I'm reading something where the heroine if fighting to escape a dangerous killer, like Nevada Barr's Anna pigeon series, I get so wrapped up in it, I can't stand to put the book away at bedtime. That intensity just wasn't there for me. Part of that is probably because Tommy isn't actually being chased most of the time, until she gets out and Hassan is out there waiting. But I think a bigger part is due to the fact that I didn't identify with Tommy's character enough, and that's because we don't get enough of it. We get a lot of her backstory in terms of her first 15 years of her life, but then we get 10 years of nothing. I wanted to know a lot more, such as what she does for a living, and more importantly, how did she live as an orphaned 15-year-old? No other family is mentioned aside from Tommy's mother who died in childbirth. It doesn't sound like her father would have left her much money, and even if he'd left her a millionaire, you still aren't allowed to just live on your own when you're 15.
There were also too many parts that I had to reread to understand. I'm still not completely sure how Jake died. At first I thought he died in Egypt. The we find out it was in a car accident in New York after meeting Bloch and tempting him with the stolen statue. It's never spelled out, but I guess it was truly an accident, since Bloch had to wait 10 years to find the location of the tomb after Jake's death.
The ending is a bit awkward, and I'm not sure I like Tommy ending up with John at all. He says he doesn't want to be a father-figure, but he sounds like he's probably even older that her father. Tommy describes him as being silver-haired in her memory of him from ten years earlier. And her excuse that she knew John was the innocent one is weak: "I don't know. I mean, I did know, but I don't know how I knew." I suspected John was the innocent one of the two archaeologists because Tommy hates him from the beginning, and even when she softens towards Mike, she still has this animosity to John that she doesn't even bother to hide, which apparently turns out to be due to the sexual tension between them. I also don't know what to do with John's reaction to Tommy saying a few things were destroyed when she was rolling around with Hassan in the tomb. Her stopping herself with "Oh Lord. I didn't mean it to sound like that," and his icy reaction of "It conveys quite a graphic picture" seems to imply what "rolling around" would imply today, that they were engaged in some sort of sexual behavior, when that idea should be absurd to everyone. I hope John wouldn't think she was in on her own kidnapping, especially after seeing her appearance after her escape, and that she'd be doing any fooling around with Hassan, who tried to kill his own twin brother.
Finally, it took a lot of convincing for me to finally get that Tommy is supposed to be 25 years old during the present action. After about the third time it mentions that she was 15 ten years ago, I finally accepted it, but I still thought her character was portrayed as older. She refers to the two grad students, who have to be at least 22, as youths, which is an unlikely thing to thinks she would call a couple guys who are only three years younger than she is. She also seems to try to make the difference in Tommy's and Dee's ages much greater than the 8-year difference. Tommy actually says something like "to use a euphamism" what telling Dee to stop flirting with Hassan. If the word flirt was considered teenage slang at the time, she certainly wouldn't have to explain that to Dee. Tommy also calls Dee a "modern teenager," which is hilarious, because she was a teenager only 6 years ago.
Now that I've done a lot of complaining, I'd like to say that I enjoyed all the information about Egypt, which interests me, and it probably helps that I can picture the Valley of the Kings, Hatshepsut's temple (where Tommy is knocked out by Bloch), and the ancient worker's village for the workers who would have worked on some of the tombs. It was nice revisiting the area, although about 40 years earlier that I was actually there.