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Amelia Peabody #1

Crocodile on the Sandbank

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Amelia Peabody, that indomitable product of the Victorian age, embarks on her debut Egyptian adventure armed with unshakable self-confidence, a journal to record her thoughts, and, of course, a sturdy umbrella. On her way to Cairo, Amelia rescues young Evelyn Barton-Forbes, who has been abandoned by her scoundrel lover. Together the two women sail up the Nile to an archeological site run by the Emerson brothers-the irascible but dashing Radcliffe and the amiable Walter. Soon their little party is increased by one-one mummy that is, and a singularly lively example of the species.

Strange visitations, suspicious accidents, and a botched kidnapping convince Amelia that there is a plot afoot to harm Evelyn. Now Amelia finds herself up against an unknown enemy-and perilous forces that threaten to make her first Egyptian trip also her last . . .

262 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 1, 1975

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About the author

Elizabeth Peters

130 books3,081 followers
Elizabeth Peters is a pen name of Barbara Mertz. She also wrote as Barbara Michaels as well as her own name. Born and brought up in Illinois, she earned her Ph.D. in Egyptology from the University of Chicago. Mertz was named Grand Master at the inaugural Anthony Awards in 1986 and Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America at the Edgar Awards in 1998. She lived in a historic farmhouse in Frederick, western Maryland until her death.

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5 stars
26,817 (36%)
4 stars
25,897 (35%)
3 stars
14,729 (20%)
2 stars
3,554 (4%)
1 star
1,601 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,377 reviews
Profile Image for Adina .
891 reviews3,543 followers
June 4, 2018
When I was younger, around 12 years old, I wanted to become an archeologist in Egypt. I read quite a few books about Ancient Egypt (and other equally old civilizations), ranging from the decipher of the hieroglyphic alphabet, to different theories regarding the creation of Pyramids, even about aliens. As such, it is not a great surprise that I enjoyed this novel. It is set in Egypt, at an archeological dig and it involves a mysterious walking mummy. Moreover, it wants to be a Victorian mystery which is definitely a plus as I am also a fan of that era in books. The 3rd bonus point is the main character, a feisty, funny, feminist heroine who I enjoyed having as my guide in this novel.

I only gave it 3 stars because Amelia Peabody was a bit too much at times, too self-confident and aggressive for the period. It was a bit unbelievable. Moreover, the main mystery was too easy to solve although I greatly enjoyed the journey. I plan to read more of the series soon.
Profile Image for Celia.
1,410 reviews88 followers
October 31, 2007
What a marvellous, marvellous book. I've seen Elizabeth Peter's books around, of course, but knew nothing of what they were about, and the covers never particularly attracted me. After seeing them recommended on someone's blog, I thought I'd pick up the first of her Amelia Peabody series - and what a joy it was.

This is a nominally a mystery, but it's not really the meat of the book, nor what is so enjoyable about it. Amelia Peabody - strong-minded, independent, sarcastic Amelia, striding along in her restrictive skirts in Victorian Egypt, fascinated by the country and its ancient history - is what makes this book so thoroughly delightful. What a wonderful character. Her exchanges with Emmerson (a grumpy Egyptologist) are hilarious (the part where she smugly notes that his jacket is on fire from his pocketed pipe after he has harangued her about something or other is hilarious). I can't wait to pick up the next one.
Profile Image for Erin *Proud Book Hoarder*.
2,473 reviews1,084 followers
March 15, 2017
“Men are frail creatures, of course; one does not expect them to exhibit the steadfastness of women.”

Barbara Mertz was one creative gal - she hooked me with her gothic mysteries under the Barbara Michaels penname, but I never indulged as much in her straight mystery stories under the name Elizabeth Peters. I finally took the plunge and tried the first book in her long-running series set around Egyptian adventures.

Amelia Peabody is quite a character - feminist for her times, tough and determined, loyal and intelligent. She can get down and dirty with the best of them when it comes to discovering, uncovering and fixing up artifacts. Without intention, she amuses characters and readers alike with her antics and attitude. She may be stuffy, but she's fun to like. Prim and proper can deliver the most giggles, especially with bad luck befalls on her and her companion on their travels. In this first book she discovers her love of ancient artifacts and Egypt.

Side characters give fun times too - where would Amelia be without her loyal and sweet companion, Evelyn, and the brothers Walter and Emerson? It's not a particularly romantic book and it's kept completely PG, but sparks start to fly and I'm sure most readers were happy when Emerson finally starts losing his prejudice towards Amelia and sees her for what she is: an ideal partner in exploration, both Egypt and life.

The mummy stuff was just funny. Practical Amelia refuses to be scared off by demented legends of the small minded populace, but even she must face stumbling mummies wrapped in bandages when they try to break into her camp!

It's a mystery without a murder, but there's plenty to figure out. The ambience of Egypt erupts through the pages, making me feel a bit of an itch myself when it comes to traveling and marveling at the world's mysteries. Nah, I'll just sit at home and read (I'm not luckily wealthy like Amelia and fear Egyptian snakes too much), but still...let's hear it for the Armchair Travelers.
Profile Image for Anne.
4,060 reviews69.5k followers
January 8, 2022
Cute cozy mystery set in Egypt. <--late 1800s, I think?


I love audiobooks and use them all the time, but I think the voice actress in this one just didn't fit quite right. I kept thinking that the words were better/funnier than she was doing them justice. Amelia sounds like she's about 50 and the chemistry between her and Emerson didn't really come through as well as I think it would have if I had read it.


Anyway. Ameilia is a cranky chick with a nice inheritance and no time for fortune hunters or stupid societal niceties. She's headed to Egypt to tour around when her paid companion gets sick.
As she ponders what to do, she runs across a young lady who has fallen on hard times and fainted in the middle of the street. And, because Amelia is not an asshole, she takes her in.
Turns out Evelyn is an heiress (or used to be?) who ran off with her tutor and was RUINED.
Disowned by her grandfather and abandoned by her lover, she was on her last leg when Amelia stumbled across her. They become fast friends, and Amelia said some things that made me think she was a lesbian - until I realized this book was published in 1975.


Which made all the weird references to how beautiful and delicate Amelia thought Evelyn was and how much she enjoyed seeing her in certain clothes make a little more sense. It also explained all the cringy comments about the superstitious & uneducated natives. <--thank god Amelia was able to use her scant medical knowledge to wash the dirt off of a kid, save the child's life, and therefore endear herself to one of those backward souls!
I gotta be honest, I felt a lot better after finding out that this wasn't a recently written story, but it still made me roll my eyes while I was reading it.


However, I did like Amelia's pluck. And I really loved the back and forth between her and Emerson. He was just as much of a jackass as she was and neither one wanted to admit that they might feel...well, feel. Period.


As far as the actual mystery of whodunnit goes?
Well, it's not hard to figure out. The bad guys are the bad guys right off the bat and you'd have to be blind not to notice who is behind the evil mummy stuff. Or even why.
This was fun and I'd definitely read more.
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,925 reviews386 followers
May 15, 2017
If Jane Eyre starred in an H. Rider Haggard novel written by Agatha Christie….you would get Crocodile on the Sandbank. First published in 1975, Peters overlays feminism over the gothic romance (which usually had mysterious goings-on too) and produces this engaging mystery. Extra points for using an Egyptian setting and getting the archaeology right. Amelia Peabody is a bit of a bossy bones, but you get enough of her history to see the why of it. (I’m probably more like her than I care to admit.)

If you enjoy a good mystery set among pyramids and ancient tombs, this book is for you.
Profile Image for Emily.
706 reviews2,043 followers
March 11, 2015
This book made me laugh out loud several times, but that's not the only reason I loved it! It also introduced me to Amelia Peabody, no-nonsense lady archaeologist-doctor and resident badass, whose travels through Egypt are full of interesting characters and settings. I mean, you can't not love a Victorian lady who's as practical as they come. When she needs to stay by a patient in the desert, there's only one habitation that will do:

So I directed Walter to pick out a nice tomb for us.

He was staring at me in the most peculiar fashion. He did not speak, but he kept opening and closing his mouth. If he had not been such a handsome fellow, he would have reminded me of a frog.

"There is a nice tomb close by, I trust," I repeated, resisting the desire to poke at him with my parasol. "Go along, Walter, we mustn't waste time; I want the place all swept out and tidy by the time our luggage arrives."

The mystery is secondary to the interactions between the characters, and the pacing could definitely be better, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. As Amelia and the rather boorish Radcliffe Emerson begin to excavate in the heretic pharaoh's city, a full-blown mummy begins to appear at night and throws everything into disarray - both the excavation and the dynamics of the group. Amelia treats it as a minor annoyance, of course (love her):

Really, the Mummy was becoming ridiculous! Its repertoire was so limited; why didn't it do something different, instead of creeping around waving its arms?

The only quibble that I have with this book is that it's weirdly racist at times - though I suppose it's not weird, since it's unfathomable that a Victorian woman would have the modern sensibilities to comprehend that. Amelia is a thoroughly Victorian narrator, and she frequently disdains the "primitive" villages the Egyptians live in. However, these passages are followed by Amelia stating in her matter-of-fact way, "And if only the women weren't trapped into marriage in their teens, perhaps things would be better here!", so she's believably modern in that regard.

Anyway, this book was awesome. I want to be a lady archaeologist in divided skirts, traveling on a boat with a piano. I can't believe I didn't discover these books sooner. The best part is that there are eighteen more!!!!!
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,327 reviews2,146 followers
August 15, 2016
What a pleasant, well written and entertaining book! I guess I have found myself another series and I believe this is a pretty long one!
Amelia Peabody is a wonderful character, sometimes verging on becoming a caricature but the author writes subtly enough to prevent this happening. The same applies to Emerson who despite all his apparent failings of temperament is still someone the reader can like enormously. I can see a great future for the pair of them!
I enjoyed the mystery, the historical setting and the descriptions of the country at that time. Imagine being able to investigate pyramids and tombs with no guide and just a candle or two. They were certainly brave in those days.
I am very glad I found this first book in the series and will certainly read more.
Profile Image for Werner.
Author 3 books598 followers
July 19, 2014
This book launched a prolific historical mystery series featuring Amelia Peabody, which makes use of the author's expertise in ancient Egypt and the archaeology that studies it. Peters' real name is Dr. Barbara Mertz, a well-respected Egyptologist in real life. (She also writes acclaimed "romantic suspense" under the name Barbara Michaels.) It was an absolute treat to read; I hated to put it down!

Set in 1884 (the date isn't given, but can be deduced from the few references to Gordon at Khartoum), the novel is narrated by Amelia herself; Peters gives her diction a Victorian flavor which adds verisimiltude, and appeals to readers like me who enjoy 19th-century fiction. Amelia, though, isn't a typical Victorian female. 32 years old and still single, she's knowledgable (her father, who's just died, was a famous scholar), headstrong but practical, unintimidated by danger or physical hardship, with a liking for adventure and no false modesty. She's also a genuinely compassionate person, a good judge of character, and a Christian who shows her faith not only by a few verbal references to it but by the way she cares about and treats others. And last but by no means least, she possesses a rich strain of dry humor that adds enormously to the reader's enjoyment here. Comparisons of her character to Indiana Jones are misplaced; she's not a female Indy or a Modesty Blaise type. She doesn't like guns --though she's not reluctant to hit or jab somebody with her parasol if he needs it :-)-- and in situations that call for action, she tends to trip over her encumbering skirts, which are one of the banes of her existence (she much prefers trousers). But she's a feisty, tough-inside lady who won't run from a challenge and keeps her cool in an emergency. Her take-charge attitude can come across as abrasive (though she doesn't mean for it to); but for all that, she's one of the most likable fictional heroines to come down the pike in a long time.

Left alone and in good financial shape, Amelia resolves to do some traveling that takes her to Egypt (by way of Rome) and introduces her to the other main characters here, especially Evelyn Barton-Forbes and the archaeologist Emerson brothers. Though they're overshadowed by Amelia, all Peters' charcters here are vividly real and well-drawn. (Radcliffe Emerson is particularly well-done; several blurbs, including the description above, call him "dashing," but that's not a term I'd use. To me, he actually comes across as more like Doyle's Prof. Challenger: both physically, with his bear-like build and that black beard, and in his irascible, pugnacious personality and opinionated approach to the science that he cares passionately about.) The author takes awhile to introduce the mystery elements of the plot, because she's setting the stage and letting us get to know the characters and their situation; but she keeps our interest as she does it. In fact, the book isn't only a mystery; it's as much a high Victorian novel of manners and social relationships, and the two strands blend together surprisingly well: sort of a "Henry James meets The Mummy" effect. There's also romance --two romances, in fact, both having a bit of complication to overcome (what fictional romance doesn't? :-))
-- and though one of my Goodreads friends has complained that romances in mysteries tend to be poorly integrated with the rest of the plot, that's not the case here. The mystery itself doesn't involve murder, a refreshing change of pace from the usual fare in the genre; I guessed the basic truth behind the situation well before the denouement, but in this type of fiction, that kind of guessing is part of the pleasure. Peters also does a good job introducing period and archaeological background detail and weaving it smoothly into the story --where it serves as another ingredient of a very delicious literary main dish!

I read this inside of two weeks --a fast read for me. My only regret is that I took so long to get around to reading this series! I'd most definitely be enthusiastically game for another installment.
Profile Image for Brenda.
4,229 reviews2,730 followers
July 21, 2021
When Amelia Peabody decided to use her inheritance to travel, to enjoy life while she could, her encounter in Cairo with Evelyn Barton-Forbes was one which would change both their lives considerably. With Evelyn as Amelia’s companion, and in a short time, good friends, almost sisters, the two women travelled down the Nile to a site of archaeology in Egypt. The first person they saw was one whom Evelyn had met in Cairo, Walter Emerson, and he was frantic. His brother was ill, possibly dying – could they help?

Passionate and outspoken about his archaeology, the site Radcliffe was excavating had uncovered some fabulous treasures. But it wasn’t long before strange events kept occurring, mainly at night. His workers were spooked and had disappeared, a cousin of Evelyn’s had appeared, and a discovered mummy had vanished. What was going on? Could the redoubtable Amelia Peabody alongside the formidable Emerson solve what was happening?

Crocodile on the Sandbank is the 1st in the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I love Amelia’s character – stubborn, strong, determined, and (almost) always got her own way! I’m definitely going to continue with this series (like I need another one!) because it’s lighthearted and lots of fun. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Berengaria.
408 reviews73 followers
June 22, 2023
2.5 stars

This short series intro seems to be trying for a rompy version of one of Agatha Christie's more exotic mysteries...and falls painfully into local amateur dramatics territory.

The setting descriptions of Egypt are nice - the way she describes sunrises and sunsets in the desert, or the poverty of village people. But these valuable and vivid details are interspliced with details of the most generic of ancient Egyptian things that even a mildly interested 6th grader would know.

And there is even a point where - although Peters was an Egyptologist and would have known - she goes for informing over historical accuracy.

Ancient Egyptian couples often called each other "brother" and "sister" instead of "honey" or "darling". This led to many early Egyptologist believing that incest was normal in Egypt. In the novel, Peters has our Egyptologist giving the correct explanation (couples were not related), not the one that would have been common at the time (couples were often related).

In addition to this generica, the coincidences in the plot are absurd, the "insta love" romantic subplots irritating and while the series characters of Amelia and Emerson are tolerable, all the other Brits are slappable ninnies. Especially our Fainting Evelyn.

Cliche anyone?

Peters does a decent job of providing us with a late Victorian colonial atmosphere, but that's where it stops. The story is neither engaging nor is the mystery challenging.

I'm assuming the books got better as the series progressed, since they did become quite popular. Something you wouldn't guess from the opener.
Profile Image for Carolyn (on vacation).
2,248 reviews642 followers
August 23, 2019
This was a fun, cosy read as long as you're not expecting much of a plot and don't mind a bit of cliche.

Independent, feisty Amelia Peabody, a Victorian feminist is just the sort of heroine you want in a cosy mystery set amongst the sand dunes of an archaeological dig in Egypt. An old maid at 29, she has decided to use her generous inheritence to travel and indulge her passion for Egyptology. The other characters are Amelia's companion - a young heiress who had her character ruined by an Italian drawing teacher, her cousin who wants to coerce her to marry him, archaeologist brothers - one affable and pleasant and the other irascible with no time for feminine wiles (so you can already guess how this is going to end up). Also one horror movie-type Mummy running amok and waving its arms a lot. As I said a lot of fun!
Profile Image for Amy.
2,629 reviews417 followers
August 13, 2020
2020 Review
Oh, I love this book.
I didn't love it as much as an audio version. Maybe I am just too familiar with the story, so someone else's emphasis on certain words just sounded foreign to me. But by the end I forgave and forgot because the story always leaves me satisfied.

2019 Review
I want to be Amelia Peabody. Also, I want a parasol. They seem quite useful for poking people out of the way.

March 31st, 2017
Even better than I remembered. Amelia Peabody is wonderful. If I rated this book today, I would probably give it 5 stars because it remains enjoyable after multiple reads. In fact, I rather want to re-read the rest of the series!

December 4th, 2014

Seriously, how have I survived unaware of Amelia Peabody? Though the novel occasionally gets weighed down by its description of Egypt, digs, and archaeology I loved the intelligent female heroine, her perchance for matchmaking, and her stubbornness. It's so nice to find a character who combines intelligence with a independent spirit and yet does not bog the reader down with pages and pages of feminist tirades (well perhaps only a page or two.) The mystery was perhaps a hint predictable but outrageous and fun enough to make it worth reading.
Most importantly, my Mom liked this one and immediately got herself the sequel!
May 22, 2013
I was happy to find this on audio at the library, although I have a paper copy. It’s easier to squeeze in an audiobook sometimes, and I thought this would be an enjoyable listen. I was right. The narrator drew me right into the story. I loved the manner in which Barbara Rosenblatt endowed these characters with a distinctive voice in the audiobook. They were real to me as I listened, and I was quite vocal in my reactions to this book. In other words, I was fully engaged!

At first I thought she made Amelia sound rather superior and stuffy at times, but I came to appreciate the irony she underlined her pompous-sounding narrative with. Amelia seems able to laugh at her own foibles, which is nice, although it doesn’t compromise her strong sense of self. Amelia is a very confident person and this comes through in the narration. She is also very set in her ways and used to being authoritative. It was really interesting seeing her meet her male counterpart, the singular Mr. Radcliff Emerson. While this isn’t a steamy book in the slightest, the sparks did fly. I loved the journey of seeing these two fall in love. I could predict that they would end up together, and this process was highly enjoyable. They met on an equal level, and while they clashed in some ways, it was in the way that makes for a very interesting life together full of good tension and mutual challenge. They will never be bored with each other.

My manner of listening to audiobooks can make things feel rather disjointed, because I can only dedicate an hour or two a night to listening or longer if I am doing something that I can devote my mind to while keeping on task. So it did take a while to see where the story was going. But this is one of those books where you enjoy the trip and don’t worry so much about the destination.

Peters endows this book with very rich atmosphere. I was on the trip to Egypt along with Amelia, Evelyn, Emerson and Walter. Most interesting is how we see Egypt through the eyes of an upper-class educated British female. While I would not in any way classify Amelia as a racist, she does have a gentle sense of superiority that comes through in her tone. I had to decide if that was offensive to me, and ultimately it wasn’t. It was realistic, honestly. I can’t expect a 19th century person to view things through the same 21st century multiculturally-aware viewpoint that I have as a reader. Although risky to compromise some degree of likability with Amelia, it turned out to be a wise artistic decision on Peters' part. While that superiority is there, it is mingled with a sense of awe, respect, and love for Egypt that encompasses its people, even if their ways and culture may strike her as peculiar and lacking to her British sensibilities.

Even though the story is through Amelia’s point of view, I felt I gained a very complex vantage point of its characters. Yes, Amelia tinges their descriptions with her personal views, I still felt like the characters had a realism that went above and beyond her perceptions. Of course, my favorite character other than Amelia was Emerson. What can I say? I love grumpy heroes. Yes, he is a bit of a sexist. I think it’s too much to call him misogynistic, although he can be rather unkind in his descriptions of women. He spoke to me of a man who was quite inexperienced and somewhat awkward with women and tended to mask these feelings of insecurity by projecting his negative opinions on women based on his limited experience with them. That’s why I was glad that Amelia met him head on. A strong, confident woman like her was the only kind of women that he could fall in love with, and the only kind of woman who would put up with him. I also enjoyed Evelyn and Walter. They were a bit more typical for a historical novel, but their characters were very appealing. Evelyn is a sweetheart, and Walter was a genuinely nice man. Evelyn’s journey spoke a little bit about the status of women in 19th century society, and I loved how Amelia raged about the situation and the actions and choices the more conventional-thinking Evelyn was forced into making. Their friendship was another powerful aspect of this book. I can see these women being friends until their dying day.

My favorite scene in the book was when . While not a romance, the romance was very satisfying. And we get two for the price of one with Evelyn, Amelia’s companion, and Walter, Emerson’s younger brother. And while I didn’t care for him at all, Lucas was also an interesting character and a good foil for the Emersons. The secondary characters don’t quite get as much point of view, but we gain knowledge of them through Amelia’s vivid descriptions.

If there was one aspect that felt a little weaker to me, it was the mystery component and its resolution. It was a bit predictable. I had figured out most of it earlier on, although I almost talked myself out of it. Maybe that was a good twist that I was forced to reevaluate my thought processes and still end up surprised that they were right, with one part I didn’t suspect. The mummy aspect could have been cheesy, but surprisingly it wasn’t. I would say that readers shouldn’t go looking for a hard mystery here, but more of a travelogue, light mystery with romance set in a very vivid historical landscape of late Victorian Egypt. With that expectation, this book is very enjoyable. The characters make this book shine, and I loved the ironic and British-flavored humor. I am glad that I was able to listen to it, and I can see myself doing a reread and continuing the series. This is a very solid 4.5 star read. I recommend it to fans of Victorian set-historical fiction and lighter mystery with a nice dose of romance.
Profile Image for RJ - Slayer of Trolls.
823 reviews192 followers
August 23, 2022
Ah, Egypt in the Victorian Era! Tombs and treasures waiting to be found! Scoundrels and dastardly fellows scheming to line their pockets and take advantage of the Fairer Sex! Reputations hanging in the balance! Mummies rising to walk the Earth in the dead of night! Will Amelia Peabody and her new friend Evelyn find peril or romance in the desert? And would someone have gotten away with it if it wasn't for those meddling kids?
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,233 reviews1,046 followers
September 26, 2013
An Amelia Peabody Mystery'

Apparently, this book was the first of a long series featuring the character of Amelia Peabody. I was interested because it took place in Egypt!
I enjoyed reading the book because the character is really very appealing - Amelia, in Victorian times, is an 'old maid' at 29, but is also a feminist, independent, and smart, but with an obvious, if hidden-from-herself romantic streak.
In this story, she rescues a young 'fallen' woman and then proceeds to stick by her when, at an archaeological site staffed by two appealing Egyptologists, a seemingly supernatural animated mummy attacks...
However, the book was published in 1975. I don't know, but I think maybe if it was written today, it would have been better.
Because, although she's supposed to be this liberated woman, and the heroine, Amelia never really solves the mystery! The guys around do, and she just sort of blunders through the situation. (In addition, the 'mystery' is really obvious, from the first page the culprit appears in the book). Romance is at least as important as crime here, and I kinda object to books that HAVE to end up with the 'old maid' heroine happily married and pregnant. Bleah.
The tone of the book reminded me of Gilman's Mrs. Pollifax books, but this was not as good as those.
Profile Image for MomToKippy.
205 reviews89 followers
May 17, 2015
This book is a complete winner in its genre! It offers warm friendships, engaging characters, sweet clean romance, mystery, humor, atmosphere, plenty of interesting and technical historical details, impeccable writing. Loved the quirky narration in which the main character addresses the reader. I totally felt that Amelia was real while reading this. Ok, I may be a bit of a pushover but still. I was completely impressed with the way the author drew a visual picture to accompany dialogue. She describes the characters' gestures, facial expressions, their entire countenance in such a way that one can not help but feel it as well as hear it. Elizabeth Peters is a genius in every sense. So happy to discover her and to find that she is a very prolific author.
Profile Image for Pam.
458 reviews43 followers
January 17, 2023
Expect a cozy with this book. I’d never read anything by this author and didn’t really know what to expect. It is well written enough but not the kind of historical mystery I like. Elizabeth Peters was an academic specializing in Egyptology, so I expected the archaeology to be more interesting. My favorite aspect of the book reflected what it was like being an English tourist in Egypt in the 1880s. The setting is somewhat like Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile but 40 years earlier. I prefer Christie, no question.
Profile Image for Maria V. Snyder.
Author 76 books16.9k followers
October 23, 2021
This was a fun book. It had a mystery, some romance, and adventure. All set in Egypt back in the late 1800s. I thought it appropriate to read before my trip to Egypt next week! I will definitely pick up the other books in this series.
Profile Image for Ashley.
2,774 reviews1,775 followers
February 16, 2016
This was SO MUCH FUN.

Almost immediately, like after the very first sentence, I was quite enamored with the whole thing. The tone, the characters, the setting, the banter. Amelia is SO SASSY. She’s an example of one of my favorite character types: a person who can afford to disregard the limitations put on her because of some sort of exception or power. It’s delicious, really, watching her come into her own.

So basically Amelia Peabody is a “spinster”* in the late 1800s England. Her father has just died and because she spent her life taking care of him, he’s left her his entire fortune (excluding her brothers). Amelia considers herself quite plain and unappealing, and has resigned herself to being a spinster for the remainder of her days. But now that she has this money, she’s going to make the most of it. A lifelong scholar, she decides to indulge her passion for Egyptology and spend a few months traveling the Nile. She engages a traveling companion and sets out. Of course, the companion she’s chosen comes with some baggage, and adventure and mystery ensue, involving mummies, archaeology, and great burly Englishmen with righteous beards.

*If Amelia Peabody is a spinster at 28 years old, I hate everything. Which reminds me of a theory I developed while reading this book. It’s called Chekhov’s Spinster. It’s like Chekhov’s Gun but with ladies who feel bad about the institution of marriage: You show me a spinster in act one, she will no longer be a spinster by the end of the story.

What I loved most about this was the subtleties Peters works in there. Little commentaries about colonialism and classism and sexism. And as previously mentioned, Amelia often flouts feminine convention because: a) She’s not worried about her reputation or landing a man, and b) she’s not worried about those things because she has her own income and can afford not to. Suddenly she’s dressing in trousers and saying inappropriate things and nobody can do anything about it at all.

And oh! The banter. Such good banter in this book. I laughed out loud while reading it, and several times dissolved into fits of manic giggling because I was so tickled about what was going on. Example:
“You are the one who loves this life,” Evelyn said, watching me curiously. “What an archaeologist you would make, Amelia!”
“Hmmm,” I said. “That is true. It is most unfortunate that I was not born a man. Emerson would accept me then as a colleague; my money would support his work; what a splendid time we would have, working and quarreling together. Oh, it is a pity I am a woman. Emerson would agree.”
“I am not so sure,” said Evelyn. There was a faint smile on her lips.

Also, every time Amelia called Emerson “that bearded person.” I love that forever. I will definitely be reading more in this series, and I hope they all continue to be this much fun.
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,530 reviews978 followers
January 21, 2021
A delightful romp through the sands of Egypt, anno 1880. Historical and archaeological information presented in a fun way, courtesy of the irrepressible Amelia Peabody - heiress and adventuress in the making. Romance waits in the dusty air of the desert, but crocodiles, shambling mummies, cobras and annoying male persons try to interfere. The plot may not be all that original and the villains are not really a surprise to readers of Agatha Christie or Conan Doyle, so the charm of the book comes mostly from the personality of Amelia and the witty British humour.
One final note on this volume: last year I read and enjoyed the Parasol Protectorate books featuring Alexia Tarabotti. This is how I first heard of Elizabeth Peters, and I'm glad I have found the original mould from which the umbrella wielding valkyrie has been cast.

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Profile Image for Lyuda.
538 reviews138 followers
April 4, 2017

“My name is Amelia Peabody… I am a spinster of independent means, traveling for pleasure…I have been accused of being somewhat abrupt in my actions and decisions, but I never act without thought; it is simply that I think more quickly and more intelligently than most people. I am an excellent judge of character.”

I simply adored Amelia! She is my kind of heroine - intelligent, bold, courageous, and outrageous with a propensity for using her parasol as a weapon. She is opinionated and willfully blind on many occasions, yet with a generous heart and a well-hidden romantic soul. And the best part - she is a narrator of the story!

I normally don't care for the first person's POV but this is one of these rare exceptions where it works beautifully. The novel is tongue-in-cheek satire, light romance, mystery and adventure. It’s witty, sometimes deliberately so, and sometimes because Amelia's superb inability to see herself as others see her.

As our heroine often points out, she doesn't go looking for trouble... it simply finds her despite her best efforts.

Independent after inheriting her father's estate, Amelia embarks on a tour of Egypt via Rome. While in Rome she stumbles across Evelyn - a fellow English woman who has 'ruined' her reputation. Amelia, undaunted by convention, hires her as a companion and travels on to Egypt. There they meet the brooding bad-tempered Radcliffe Emerson and his charming younger brother Walter.

The irritable Radcliffe is a perfect foil to Amelia's tendency to take charge of any situation. From their very first encounter all throughout the story, their interactions are priceless. Here is how their first meeting went down:

“I do not know you—”

“But I know you, madam! I have met your kind too often —the rampageous British female at her clumsiest and most arrogant. Ye gods! The breed covers the earth like mosquitoes, and is as maddening. The depths of the pyramids, the heights of the Himalayas—no spot on earth is safe from you!”

He had to pause for breath at this point, which gave me the opportunity I had been waiting for.

“And you, sir, are the lordly British male at his loudest and most bad-mannered. If the English gentlewoman is covering the earth, it is in the hope of counteracting some of the mischief her lord and master has perpetrated. Swaggering, loud, certain of his own superiority…”

I think the weakest element of the story is a mystery with transparently obvious from the start “who did it" solution. Yes, it's predictable, but sometimes, as they say, it's the journey - not the destination. And what a journey this was!

The tombs, the sand, the pyramids, the terrace at Shepheard's...they are enough to carry one away. It's just like being in Raiders of the Lost Ark, or King Solomon's Mines. The descriptions of Egypt are breathtaking and fascinating and, with the author's doctorate in Egyptology, historically accurate.

I don't know what took me so long to find this story! Lucky for me, there are 18 more in the series.
Profile Image for Anu.
365 reviews889 followers
October 2, 2021
When I was younger, I really, really wanted to be an archaeologist. We have a book at home, called The Concise History Encyclopedia , and it is perhaps the most battered book in my house. I was nine when we bought it, and from then, till I was about 14 or 15, I used to read that book everyday, conscientiously. My brother and I used to play a game where he used to pretend to be my professor, who would ask me questions from the book. I used to draw diagrams from it and I basically knew every word that had been printed in the book. I had always loved history and ruins and just ancient mysteries. I used to watch a lot of History Channel; needless to say, I became somewhat of an expert in the subject. When I was 10, my father introduced me to the Indiana Jones movies. Well, I was 10, so I developed a bit of a crush on the gun-slinging, bull-whip-swinging Indiana Jones. His adventures became mine, and I dreamt of being like the great Dr. Jones - digging up tombs in Egypt and exploring lost Mayan temples. Of course, I (unfortunately) grew up and realised it was rather difficult to actually pursue a career in archaeology, especially in India, and became a lawyer instead. However, history will always be my first love. In fact, my family and I have spent many a vacation exploring ancient temples and ruins.

Needless to say, when I read this book's description, I was quite fascinated. I mean, mummies and murders, right? What more could a girl ask for? Well, I wasn't disappointed, that's for sure. The book delivered on everything it promised - mystery, history, and a wee bit of romance. I was gripped; the book, much like the main characters' romance, was fast. However, as much as I liked the main characters, they started to annoy me after a while.

Amelia, for one, I liked, because she was a feminist, and quite steadfastly so. However, she was also what kids these days like to call a "NLOG", or a girl who claims she isn't like other girls. And that bit grated on me more than I would have liked. Sure, the book is set in the 19th century, and most of Amelia's opinions read like a feminist's in the 19th century would. Still, I can't help how I feel about it. It was pretty much the same with Emerson; he was progressive, by 19th Century standards, yet prone to making sweeping generalisations about native Egyptians, women, and the like. It was, however, funny (and a little adorable), how these two stubborn kids bantered; their romance to me was more expected than that between other characters in this book, though the latter was portrayed more, er, overtly. I quite liked Evelyn, but for her tendency of wanting to sacrifice herself every other page. She has serious a martyr complex, that one. Walter was definitely my favourite character in the book; he was the voice of reason in this group, this story. I honestly had fun with this little group, digging around, making stupid decisions, and having shouting matches.

It is a wonderful, little cosy mystery, and I would definitely, without fail, read the second book. I did, however, have a slight issue with the language. Now, my knowledge of how English people communicated in the 19th century is limited, of course, but I somehow never felt like they belonged to that era. I am used to people talking to one another like they do in Sherlock Holmes or a Charles Dickens book, and this was not like that at all. If anyone has any clarification regarding this, please feel free to comment. I'm curious about the linguistic style of the book.

I would've given this book four stars, but then I realised I award four stars only to books I consider truly exceptional. This book, for me, had no quotable quotes I could use in the review, and was quite ordinary. However, I give very average books 3 stars, so I'm giving The Crocodile on the Sandbank 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for ✨ Gramy ✨ .
1,382 reviews
February 28, 2019
I listened to this adventure through Hoopla, which I access through my local library. It is thrilling when I discover that a book I enjoy in audio as much as I did this one, by the talented and versatile narrator, Susan O'Malley.

I found the beginning of this tale quite comical, from the cast of quirky characters working together to catch a murderer, all the way to exploring this historical excavation of an ancient Egyptian tomb, filled with Egyptian antiquities. Some readers will find some of the content boring, as do I. Surprisingly enough, I actually find much enjoyment in things that are odd or peculiar in a strange or eccentric way, the bits of playful flippancy, and the fiery banter. What a hoot the courtship was!

This is a historical romance that inspires clean and wholesome entertainment, bringing Radcliff and Amelia Emerson out of retirement. They left their precocious son with Walter and Evelyn and their panicked offspring. Miss Amelia is a knowledgable and capable heroine, who knows how the handle Radcliff Emerson and his emotional outbursts quite remarkably. In my opinion, any romantic insinuations, snarkiness, or snipes were referred to charmingly in a discreet manner. The competition between Radcliff and Ameilia in regard to solving the murders was ridiculously entertaining. There were plenty of sparkling gems of dry wit. This was a fabulous read and I really enjoyed it!

Elizabeth Peters is quite the storyteller and expresses herself with dramatic and colorful emphasis that it appeals to the reader's attention. Just when you may begin to feel a little lost or bored, her personal outburst will recapture your attention, or she might strike someone with her trusty umbrella and continue the story. She has a distinct and succinct way of portraying each intrinsically humorous experience, giving the reader a unique and uncommon perspective to observe. I was delighted with the notes within the book to the reader to explain what the author was trying to convey, especially when she realized the reader might be bored with a certain portion.

Elizabeth Peters' has published many other novels. She writes under her pen names Elizabeth Peters, Barbara Michaels, and her real name - Barbara Mertz.
Profile Image for Jessaka.
902 reviews137 followers
January 12, 2020
aThe Crumudgeon with an Umbrella

Amelia, a young 32-year old curmudgeon, was sleeping in her bed in Egypt when she saw a man or something standing by her bed. She picked up her umbrella, which she kept near her,, and began hitting the object; instead, she got her umbrella embedded in the mosquito net.

If you love women who carry dangerous umbrellas, then this is the book for you. If you love Egypt with its mummies, this again, is the book for you.

This book is hailed as being a hilarious, fun read. I trudged through it myself, thinking of other books that I would rather be reading. For mysteries, like this one was supposed to be, I prefer Nancy Drew. Now, don’t laugh, thinking that Nancy Drew is a stupid read, because I have a friend who is smart, gets all, As in, college, studying law, who is now rereading her Nancy Drew books, those that I send to her.

I don’t particularly find grouches humorous. Umbrellas, though, can be very funny, but not in Amelia’s hands. And, anyway, isn’t curmudgeonry* just an old person’s disease, as in, “Grumpy Old Men,” which was a fun movie, by the way?”

Due to boredom, I could hardly follow the plot, much less the characters who were creating it. There was a woman named Evelyn that Amelia found passed out in the street and took to Egypt with her. Then there was a man named Emerson who was also a curmudgeon, or was it the other man, Walter? Was his name Walter?

Next, someone found a mummy in a tomb, but the next day the mummy disappeared and found its way into Amelia’s bedroom, often. I don’t think that he wanted sex, although it was long overdue; it was just that he wanted to frighten her. Still, it had to just a man in a mummy suit. I know this to be true because mummy’s don’t walk or even growl.
But if you wish to read a fun, hilarious book, this one, and its sequels, may just be the book(s) for you.

*Curmudgeonry: The art of being a curmudgeon. While this word is not in the dictionary, it should be.
Profile Image for Shainlock.
753 reviews
September 19, 2019
I love the start to this series. Amelia is hilarious, charming, smart, witty, and feisty. I love how it is Victorian but not dull, and has quite a bit of action in it. These books are very clean and I can't wait to read the next one.
The archaeology alone, back when you still had antiquarians roaming about was enough to hook me, but everything else was great. I loved how the Emerson party was into conservation and not plunder.
Like I said, can't wait to read the next one. It has something for everyone.
She is now one of my bookish heroines for how she swings her umbrella about. Respect her authority !
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,144 reviews1,849 followers
July 26, 2010
My wife loved all these books (and a great many other things Elizabeth Peters, Barbara Michaels, Barbara Mertz wrote). I'm giving it 3 stars as I recognize that this/these are very well written books. They are well constructed, the characters are fully fleshed out and if you follow the series they will remain fairly true to themselves. So, why only 3 stars? First, I like very few mysteries. While these are well crafted mysteries it's not a genre I find a "go-to" for myself...that's one reason. There is one other. Where my wife really like these, I just can't really. For one thing, I suppose the main thing, I really don't "like" Amelia Peabody...we just probably wouldn't get along. I'm sure she's one of the world's great archeologists/Egyptologists (or was as the books are placed back in the hay-day of the British Empire), but she just rubs me the wrong way.

These are well written books and if they are your cup of tea (as Amelia's English it would definitely be tea) you will probably love them. Please, I know my wife and others loved these so, if you're a mystery buff, if you think you might get along with Amelia...try them. They're just not my favorites. i listened to several just to have something to listen to on long drives, as I preferred a book to radio, but I probably would never have picked them up to read.
Profile Image for Lauren .
1,735 reviews2,337 followers
February 5, 2017
These books were recommended to me many times over the years when the recommender learned that I studied archaeology in college. "Oh, you must have read the Amelia Peabody books!" was often followed with "Indiana Jones!" It took me many years to get to the first one... and wow, I was disappointed.

At first, I thought it was a parody, so I kept on reading. The quips from the heroine Amelia Peabody are zingers akin to Maggie Smith's Lady Violet character in Downton Abbey, which was funny at first, but I really tired of the colonialist sentiment and the descriptions of the modern Egyptians as compared to the "highly evolved" English.

DNF - had to stop the noise. I became upset with myself for even sticking with it so long.
Profile Image for aPriL does feral sometimes .
1,931 reviews438 followers
July 3, 2018
‘Crocodile on the Sandbank’, the first in the Amelia Peabody mystery series, is a perfectly splendid cozy mystery! I love the indomitable force of nature that is Miss Amelia Peabody!

English gentlewoman Amelia Peabody has recently inherited and she is now at loose ends. Despite the strictures which are socially imposed on Victorian women, she has decided to travel and have adventures. She sets out with a hired female companion for Italy! However, it becomes apparent the companion will not do - her constitution is too weak and sickly to keep up with the thirty-two-year old Amelia. Morosely, Amelia sends the companion back to England and wonders how to fix the situation. Her plan had been next to go to Egypt.

Unexpectedly, a sweet young countrywoman of twenty-three faints almost literally at Amelia’s feet. The starving woman, Evelyn Barton-Forbes, quickly regains consciousness under Amelia’s care. Evelyn tells her story of woe - she is a ruined woman! Her grandfather has, correctly in Evelyn’s opinion, disinherited her for her foolish escapade of running away from England with a young Italian man, only to wake up alone in her Italian hotel abandoned and robbed of all her money. Was it possible Evelyn had been contemplating suicide? Maybe, Amelia thinks. But Evelyn is NOT going to be permitted to do so if Amelia has anything to say about it! Amelia clearly sees Evelyn is a person of honor who has been grievously abused, and Amelia needs a vigorous and young paid companion if she is to realize her dreams of adventure in Egypt. Ah! What a fortuitous meeting!

So begins the journey which will change both of the young women's lives. The women are introduced to a pair of very nice and handsome archeologists, brothers, on a trip up the Nile. Next, there are mysterious murder attempts! Are the brothers up to no good? A horrible mummy begins to stalk an archeological dig’s camp - maybe it’s after the women! Then an artifact is wrecked. Who, and why, is someone doing this?

Amelia will get to the bottom of it all! It is all a perfectly splendid adventure!
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