Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Review: Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

Title: Crocodile on the Sandbank 
Author: Elizabeth Peters (Barbara Mertz)
Information on Series: First of 19 (possibly 20)
Audience: Adult
Rating (Scale  of 1-5 with 5 being the highest): 4

TL;DR:  Join Amelia Peabody (Indiana Jones in a skirt) as she embarks on her new life with a trip to Egypt circa 1884.  This spinster turned archaeologist/sleuth has a knack for finding adventure wherever she goes. 

Long Review: Elizabeth Peters wrote one of my favorite historical fiction series, convincingly blending her fictional characters into the fabric of history.  Crocodile on the Sandbank begins in 1884 England. Amelia Peabody is the spinster daughter of a reclusive scholar who let her deal with all the practical day-to-day details of life while he spent his time at work.  Her scholarly interests were nurtured and encouraged and upon his death, she was named his sole beneficiary.  Amelia was suddenly in possession of quite a substantial fortune which brought out all kinds of would-be suitors and relatives begging for money. To escape, she takes off on a tour of classical sites starting in Italy and moving on to Egypt. 

While in Rome, Peabody (as she comes to be known) meets Evelyn Barton Forbes, a woman who attempts to take her own life because she was abandoned after eloping to Italy.  Peabody is nothing if not practical and after saving Evelyn’s life, employs her as a traveling companion.  Evelyn and Peabody make their way to Egypt where they meet the Emerson brothers, Radcliff and Walter.  Peabody and Emerson (Radcliff hates his name, everyone calls him Emerson) loathe one another on sight, but their relationship takes a turn when he falls ill and she is tasked with keeping his excavation going. 

To complicate matters, Peabody’s cousin, Lucas, shows up with a story about her grandfather’s death, his inheritance and a proposal of marriage.  Oh, and there is also a mummy moaning and wandering around the desert at night.  Your typical trip to Egypt. 

Author Elizabeth Peters received her PhD in Egyptology from the University of Chicago and infuses her novels with a great deal of historical accuracy as well as poking fun at many of the period’s stereotypes.  Through 19 books and a timeline that spans 38 years, readers can follow the adventures of Peabody and Emerson in a series rich in detail, humor, and rife with mysterious happenings.  

I love when I read a fictional account of something that happened in history and it prompts me to investigate further.  An added bonus is when the story draws you in with characters that are both entertaining and knowledgeable.  Amelia Peabody is no simpering, pampered miss, she is a strong woman who can, and does, take care of herself.  She also gets herself into and out of trouble, usually with the help of her trusty umbrella (it is more than just an umbrella).  Do you like history? Are you fascinated with Egypt?  Give this series a try.

A few notes on this series:

* If you read the books in the order in which they were published, you will notice that there are some that don't fall in line chronologically.  Check out to see a summary of the books.  Note the excavation season if you want to read them in chronological order.  

* Elizabeth Peters passed away in 2013, but it looks like there might be a 20th Amelia Peabody book in the works.


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Lady Julia Grey enlists the help of private detective Nicholas Brisbane to unravel the mysterious death of her husband, Edward. 

~ Amy Muchmore, Carnegie-Stout Public Library

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