Sunday, August 15, 2010

Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

Book Description:
In Victorian England, a woman wasn't supposed to be an archaeologist or a detective. Amelia Peabody was both. Thirty-one-year-old Victorian gentlewoman Amelia Peabody has inherited her father's strong will as well as his considerable fortune. On her way to Cairo to indulge her passion for Egyptology, she picks up Evelyn Barton-Forbes as a traveling companion. Evelyn has a tarnished past, but both she and Amelia believe that it won't come back to haunt her. That belief is shattered when Evelyn is attacked by a walking, homicidal mummy. Amelia enlists the aid of Radcliff Emerson, a prominent Egyptologist, to help unravel the plot against her friend and decipher the clues left by the mummy. Between grave digging and academic sparring, she manages to save his life. But with the threat of an ancient curse closing in, Amelia must resort to outrageous methods to prevent the mummy from making corpses of them all.
I loved, loved, loved this book!

The indomitable Amelia Peabody, Victorian spinster turned archeologist sleuth is an original - the original.  First in a long series of historical mystery novels starring Amelia, the series inception began with Crocodile on the Sandbank in 1975.   Since then, there are something like nineteen (!) books in the series, and Ms. Peters is still pumping them out! I can see why over the years, other authors have probably modeled their heroines after her, but they pale in comparison - no one is quite like Amelia!  She is irresistible! Having become a fan of this genre recently, I now recognize Amelia in several other historical mystery novels I've read lately. As much as I like these other female mystery solvers who also happen to be well-to-do Victorian ladies, none have been as deliciously fun to read as much as Amelia.  They don't even come close!

For one thing Amelia's dry wit and razor sharp tongue make the words leap off the pages.  She sparkles.  She's clever. She's rich.  She's blunt.  What a character, full of common sense and a strong dose of vinegar added for good measure.  She can match anyone. No one can up Ms. Peabody - well, maybe one person - a man whom she meets in Egypt on an archeological  dig ... but I get ahead of myself.  A self avowed spinster, she's proud of her status and is her own person.  Eager to travel and see the world, she befriends the destitute Evelyn Barton-Forbes, a young lady of aristocratic origin who has been cruelly duped into eloping with an Italian lothario who leaves her broke, ruined and unmarried.  Amelia, recognizing a kindred spirit in Evelyn, hires her on the spot to become her paid traveling companion.

The two travel from Rome to Egypt to sail along the Nile and see Egypt from the water (the only civilized way to see Egypt and the Pyramids).  Amelia is captivated by the country and it's antiquities and becomes an instant expert on all things Egyptian.  While in Cairo, they meet two brothers - one, a young, handsome and charmingly bashful gentleman who becomes instantly smitten with Evelyn and the other... well, let's just say Emerson isn't exactly like his brother. 

Emerson is a big bear of a man.  In Amelia's eyes he is just barely a gentlemen.  Dedicated to his archeological dig and abhorring the dirty dealings of antiquities dealers and their casual disregard for preservation, Emerson and Amelia come to loggerheads upon first meeting.  In her eyes, he is uncouth, lacking in the Victorian civilities she is accustomed to.  He criticizes everyone repeatedly and refers to her as "Peabody."  They are all thrown together while trying to solve the mystery of a mysterious mummy that is "haunting" Emerson's archeological site along the Nile.  Amelia, being the take charge kind of person that she is, commandeers the entire operation when Emerson falls ill and so begins our mystery.   Unbelieving in actual mummies, our archeological friends all try to capture the fake "mummy" and find out who is behind the deception that is scaring the superstitious workers off the site. 
As much as the mystery was fun to solve, it was also very funny!  The entire book is told as if Amelia is recounting the events at a later date and I loved it how she keeps referring to "her Critic" who seems to be looking over her shoulder as she writes.  Gee I wonder who it is? ;)  There are many funny little tidbits that cracked me up, particularly the asides she has in regard to Emerson or Lucas, a suitor of Evelyn's who is up to no good and most likely after her money. I had no idea this book would be such a riot!   I was giggling throughout - it was simply delightful!

I'm leaving tons out for I don't want to spoil the surprises, but trust me this is a priceless little gem.  I loved every word of it.  Amelia and Emerson's jabs at each other were hilarious, their little war, of course, turns into love and it was a joy to see how the whole mystery unfolds in the midst of Amelia's and Emerson's barbs towards each other and the mysterious shenanigans that take place in the desert while trying to nab the mummy!  I was riveted to the mummy mystery, I had an idea of who was all behind it, but was curious to see how it played out.  Plus, I had to keep reading to find out if the beautiful Evelyn, Amelia's companion, finds true love and if her reputation is regained.  I liked Evelyn a lot, I had a great deal of sympathy for her, she's been treated badly, yet she's strong as well.  She doesn't just roll over and play dead.   I hope we see more of her in future books!  Amelia's love story was great as well - a real hoot!  What a pair!!

Do yourself a big favor, read this book if you like historical mysteries with a strong and captivating heroine.  Long live Amelia! I'm eager to see just how the rest of this series plays out, much of which I'll listen to on audiobook in the future - a real treat!



samantha.1020 said...

This was such a fun read! I read this last year and am still meaning to pick up the next book in this series. I loved it to pieces though so I'm glad to see you enjoyed it as well. Great review!

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Sam, I was floored at how much I loved this book. Amelia's little insults about Emerson and Lucas were priceless, she has such a way with words and the way she'd order everyone around. Loved to see the way Emerson comes around to her, and she to him, like two titans falling for each other! LOL!

Marie-Thérèse said...

I'm afraid to read this because I suspect I will adore it (I love this author's books under the name Barbara Michaels) and then I'll be stuck gobbling up all the sequels and I'll never get any of the reading I'm "supposed" to do done!

*backs slowly away from tempting novel* ;-)

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

M-T - you've got to read them now! I'll have to look up Barbara Michaels. The good thing about these books are they're very short, so it's easy to get through them quickly! *evil grin*

Yvette said...

CROCODILE ON THE SANDBANK is one of my Top Ten Favorite Books of all time - that's how much I loved it.
(Great to find other fans of it here.) I've since read most of the Amelia Peabody books and loved most of those. But my very favorites remain the early books. To me, Radcliffe Emerson, the looney archeologist, is the perfect man. What that says about me, I don't know - HA!

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Yvette, thanks for stopping by! I can't wait to get into this series some more, everyone says it just gets better and better! I checked out your blog and it looks really interesting! I see many of your favorite book are on mine too or on my giant TBR list as well!

Yvette said...

Thanks Julie. Glad you liked my blog. I'm still feeling my way around as I am a new blogger with limited techy skills. I don't know what I'm doing half the time, but I'm sure having fun doing it. I notice you like Lauren Willig, I read THE BETRAYAL OF THE BLOOD LILY a few weeks ago and loved it. I've read several of her books and this one, to me, was the best so far. I'm reading THE HELP now.
A friend sent it to me with instructions to drop everything and read it. ;)

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Yvette - I adored The Help! I listened to it on audio and it was great! One of the best books of the year for me. Yes, I love Lauren Willig - I met her this summer in June (go back, I posted pictures under her tag - plus, I won her book cover contest!) It was quite a Lauren Willig summer for me! LOL!

Yvette said...

Hi Julie, just wanted to mention a few books you might like if you haven't read them already.
MARJOR PETTIGREW'S LAST STAND by Helen Simonson, THE OUTSIDER by Penelope Williamson, AUSTENLAND by Shannon Hale and THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE by Alan Bradley. Oh, and the only vampire book I've liked and can recommend unconditionally: SUNSHINE by Robin McKinley. All read and loved by me. By the way, meant to mention the other night that I have been to the Scottish Highlands (many years ago) and LOVED them, loved Scotland. All the babies seemed to have bright red hair which I loved too. Wonderful, friendly people as well. The Highlands are the moodiest landscape, VERY affecting, ripe for imagining things.

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Yvette, thanks for the recommendations! I have Major Pettigrew on my TBR list already and have heard a lot about Sweetness. I think I'm giving up on vampires for a while, but I've heard about Sunshine as well. I was going to read Austenland at one point, but changed my mind, I was sort of OD'ing on Austen-related books at the time.

Yes, the Scottish Highlands, I'm really hoping next summer...

Related Posts with Thumbnails