Crocodile on the Sandbank – Elizabeth Peters

21 Dec
I read Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters for the first time, oh, about five years ago. Nancy Pearl, librarian extraordinaire, recommended her Amelia Peabody series in Book Lust, and I fell instantly in love. I’ve had a bit of a reading slump this month, what with all the craziness of the holidays and my work schedule ramping up, so back to Miss Peters I go.

Elizabeth Peters is the nom de plume of Barbara Mertz, who also writes under the name of Barbara Michaels. If you like gothics, you know Barbara Michaels. Armed with a PhD in Egyptology, Elizabeth Peters knows what she’s talking about in Crocodile on the Sandbank, the first book in her Amelia Peabody mystery series. Amelia is one of those strident, direct, no-nonsense bluestockings in the Victorian era, blessed with enough money and self-confidence to pursue her interests in Egypt and archaeology during a time when women were just starting to assert themselves. On her way to Egypt, Amelia acquires a friend/companion in Evelyn, a slightly dizzy young woman stranded in Rome. Amelia and Evelyn must now avoid Evelyn’s paramours while they explore Egypt and uncover a mystery in the form of a mummy terrorizing an archaeological site run by the Emerson brothers. The elder Emerson, Radcliffe, is, of course, brusque and dashing and a little bit too cool for school. Amelia and Radcliffe loathe each other, and we all know what that means. True love, y’all.

This book is a serious good time. What’s not to love? The dry heat, mesmerizing exoticism, and fascinating academic finds in Egypt are just as exciting for the reader as they are for Amelia. Sometimes I think that, if I had been born in Victorian times, I would have made an excellent bluestocking. The mummy mystery is actually kinda creepy – I think it’s all that practice writing gothics as Barbara Michaels that makes Peters really able to project this otherworldly quality onto the mummy. There’s also this lovely, old-timey rat-a-tat-tat, back-and-forth dialogue, especially between Amelia and Radcliffe that really highlights Peters’ wit and cleverness.

All this revisiting Crocodile on the Sandbank makes me want to delve back into this series. For one reason or another, I got distracted my first time around. This time, victory will be mine!

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