Crocodile on the Sand Bank – Amelia Peabody Mysteries
Elizabeth Peters was a stunning individual, not only was she an Egyptologist but she authored several novels under various names. Elizabeth Peters is not her real name either, her real name is Barbara Louise Mertz.
I was first put on to Amelia Peabody by a lecturer in Egyptology at Cambridge University, when I was studying there Summer 2014. She said to me – if you like murder mysteries and 19th century nostalgia then this is for you, plus the Egyptology is correct!
I found an audiobook version of the first book that week and I have been obsessed ever since.
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Cost: £8.66 (or you can get the audiobook free when you sign up for a free trial with Audible)
Size: 13.4 x 2.1 x 19.8 cm
Hours to read: 6 hours (10 leisurely)
What Is It About?
Imagine if Miss Marple and Indiana Jones were combined to excavate ancient Egyptian sites, match make, and solve murders in the late 1800s.
That is Amelia Peabody.
This is the woman I want to be. She is wealthy, she is brilliantly intelligent, and she takes absolutely no bullshit from anyone.
We meet Amelia in Rome, let’s demonstrate the Peabody spirit.
Amelia has engaged Piero, an Italian whose job it was to help tourists in the city. After delivering her to a store and watching her haggle down the price she has this to say.
He expressed his chagrin to his compatriot in his native tongue, and included in his tirade several personal comments on my appearance and manner. I let him go on for some time and then interrupted with a comment on his manners. I speak Italian, and understand it, quite well.
After that Piero and I got on admirably.
After some initial delays, Amelia embarks on her first trip to Egypt, she immediately gets embroiled in drama and very soon there is an assailant on their trail.
Pairing up with the incomparable Emerson, I won’t use his first name – he hates it. The most unlikely pair unravel a complicated tale of intrigue, jilted lovers, and contested wills of miserly old aristocrats.
Oh, and a mummy risen from the dead terrorising them at every turn.
All this while trying to excavate and preserve antiquities from the ravishes of time.
I can see why people may not see how a Victorian murder mystery is really a travel book.
But honestly, if Peters’ poetic descriptions of Egypt and the Nile don’t make you want to visit the land of the Pharoahs – I’ll eat my figurative pith helmet.
Did I like it?
Did I? I don’t know. I’ve only listened to it on audio book a few dozen times, read it a few dozen more, and wish with all my heart that a movie would be made and do it justice.
This is one of those books, similar to The Historian, where I am physically envious of those people who haven’t read it yet because they get to experience reading it for the first time.
I haven’t read the entire series, because Elizabeth Peters passed on in 2013 after 85 years of academic and literary pursuits, and once I finish the series there will be no more ‘first reads’. There was a valiant effort to complete the final book in the series but from what I hear it misses the mark somewhat.
So I will be savouring every single title I have left in the series.
Do I Recommend it?
I recommend this to all.
There are enough laughs and a good enough mystery plot that those uninterested in the history will be entertained.
The history is accurate, the Egyptology time appropriate, and it is all introduced in such a way that at no point do you feel you are being given a history lesson.
The writing speaks for itself but I personally love the audiobooks, if you go this way make sure you get the ones narrated by Barbra Rosenblat.
I am sure the other lady who does versions is a lovely person. But Rosenblat epitomises the characters, so much so that when I read the print versions, I read the characters in her voices and cadence.
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