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August 1910. Banned from the Valley of the Kings by the Antiquities Service, Amelia Peabody and her husband, Emerson, are relaxing at home in Kent, enjoying the tranquil beauty of summer. But adventure soon beckons when they are persuaded to follow would-be archaeologist Major George Morley on an expedition to Palestine, a province of the crumbling, corrupt Ottoman Empire and the Holy Land of three religions. Searching for the vanished treasures of the Temple in Jerusalem, Morley is determined to unearth the legendary Ark of the Covenant.
The skeptical Emerson wants no part of the scheme until a request from the War Office and Buckingham Palace persuades him to reconsider. The Germans are increasing their influence in Palestine and British intelligence insists that Morley is an agent of the Kaiser, sent to stir up trouble in this politically volatile land. Emerson can't believe that the seemingly inept Morley is a German spy, but could he be mistaken?
Determined to prevent a catastrophically unprofessional excavation that could destroy priceless historical finds as well as cause an armed protest by infuriated Christians, Jews, and Muslims who view the Temple Mount, also known as the Dome of the Rock, as sacred, Amelia, Emerson, and company head to Palestine. Though it is not to her beloved Egypt, the trip to Jerusalem will also reunite her with her handsome and headstrong son, Ramses, working on a dig at Samaria, north of the holy city.
Before Ramses can meet his parents, however, he is distracted by an unusual party of travelers who have arrived in Samaria, including a German woman archaeologist and a mysterious man of unknown nationality and past. Unfortunately, Ramses's insatiable curiosity and his knack for trouble lead him to a startling discovery: information he must pass on to his parents in Jerusalem—if he can get there alive.
Once again the Peabody-Emerson clan must use all their skills and wiles to find the truth, prevent a bloody holy war, and save their son from the clutches of a nefarious enemy in this wonderfully engaging tale chock-full of thrills, mystery, and daring from the inimitable Elizabeth Peters.