Book Reviews, Literary News, and Thoughts on Life
Elizabeth Peters’s unforgettable heroine Amelia Peabody makes her first appearance in this clever mystery. Amelia receives a rather large inheritance and decides to use it for travel. On her way through Rome to Egypt, she meets Evelyn Barton-Forbes, a young woman abandoned by her lover and left with no means of support. Amelia promptly takes Evelyn under her wing, insisting that the young lady accompany her to Egypt, where Amelia plans to indulge her passion for Egyptology. When Evelyn becomes the target of an aborted kidnapping and the focus of a series of suspicious accidents and mysterious visitations, Amelia becomes convinced of a plot to harm her young friend. Like any self-respecting sleuth, Amelia sets out to discover who is behind it all.*
*Courtesy of Amazon.com
If you are looking for a hard-core mystery storyline, then Crocodile on the Sandbank is probably not going to be the book you reach for (I was able to figure out the whodunit part well before the end of the book). Good thing then that I don’t have a deep, abiding love for all things mystery to prevent me from enjoying this book, eh? If you are after a light, fun, adventurous romp, then Crocodile on the Sandbank might just be what you are looking for.
Did I mention how much fun the characters were? I’ve delved a bit into Elizabeth Peters’ other works and while I thought Jacqueline Kirby was a bit odd (though I certainly own a Mary Poppins bag like hers) and Vicky Bliss a bit too perfect (come on, I liked her, but it’s really not fair that she had both brains and beauty and a cool job that allowed her to traipse across Europe), Amelia Peabody was just the right combination of awesome.
While I could relate to the whole plain jane, being called an old maid, wondering if I should acquire an extra cat or two and take up spinning bit, Amelia had that tell-it-like-it-is, take charge demeanor that I’ve always wanted. And she pokes people with her parasol. Who hasn’t wanted to be able to get away with something like that? I also admired Amelia for not simply resigning herself to a quiet, solitary life somewhere in dear old England, but deciding that she was going to visit all of the places that she had come to love through her studies with her late father and then she went out and did it. Not exactly typical behavior for a woman in the late Victorian period.
And then there was Emerson. Ah, Radcliffe Emerson, that loud, brash, bear of a man Amelia and company meet at a museum in Cairo. Most of you readers with any sort of feminist inclinations might go man-hater on him, call him a chauvanist pig, and kick him in the shins, but not Amelia. She simply demonstrates that she is not the flighty, frivolous, fainting female that he seems to think most women of the age are, and proves that she is just as capable as he is in the archelological field, thereby winning his admiration and respect (it also helps that he really was a bit of a romantic softy after all).
I also appreciated the research Peters must have performed to get not only the locations, but the time period just right. I think if you are going to write historical ficiton of any sort, whether it be serious or the light, fun stuff like the Amelia Peabody series, you owe it to your readers to make it accurate, and Peters has certainly lived up to my expectations. I liked the writing style as well — it seemed as if Amelia was telling me a story, complete with the little comments from the ‘critic’ who is looking over her shoulder as she writes.
Oh, those of you who are fans of the Outlander series will appreciate this aside: at one point a Lord Ellesmere makes an appearance in the story. I couldn’t help but thinking “William got married and had babies and kept his title after all!”
100+ Reading Challenge
Cozy Mystery Challenge