The Horror from the Tombs
Florence Stevenson | Charter Books | 1977 | 170 pages
Kitty Telefair, a young psychic member of a family of occultists and occasional guest star on a supernatural television talk show, is recruited by her aunt Penelope to decipher an ancient Egyptian papyrus. With a terse urgency, Penelope explains that she received a batch of artifacts from the tomb of Princess Khefra for her witchcraft museum, and that she
needs Kitty’s expertise in reading the hieroglyphics. Against the wishes of her fiance, Colly (whose protests seem to end in implied sex scenes, the buttons ripped off Kitty’s pant suit), Kitty agrees to help her aunt, but immediately experiences a sort of empathetic link with Princess Khefra.
Hearing screams as she arrives at her aunt’s estate, Kitty discovers a local kindergarten teacher unresponsive in the passenger seat of a car—apparently scared into shock—with the driver missing. Kitty’s aunt informs her that museum has been vandalized and the papyrus stolen. Aunt Penelope also introduces her to the estate’s unexpected houseguests, Professor Gridley and his wife Beryl. Gridley, an anthropologist studying the museum’s collection of occult objects, and his magnetically attractive young wife, cause Kitty to feel a strange—yet instantly familiar—sense of animosity, but she agrees to stay and help her aunt find the stolen artifact.
From the first few pages, any sense of mystery is deflated by Kitty’s visions through the eyes of Princess Khefra (“Why did they violate my—er—her tomb?”). Aside from a mild twist, the desires and motivations of the ancient characters mirror their counterparts in the present day, resulting in the flashback passages becoming something of a bore. The Gridleys, Kitty’s friend Ellen, and Ellen’s fiance Austin, all fall neatly into place, usually telegraphed by the first meeting:
“You said—other name.” He frowned. “Did you have another name for me, Kitty?”
“I—I thought I knew you under another name,” I said.
“That’s odd—damned odd. I had another name for you, too.” He stared at me. “What is this?”
Kitty emerges as an engaging heroine, but the light and frothy tone sinks under the weight of the philosophical implications of the story. What appears to be just another throwaway entry in a series of adventures actually reveals all actions and relationships to be not really our own, but rather the endless replay of those already experienced in previous lives. How will Kitty ever look at Colly the same way again?
[sound of pant suit ripping]