Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters introduced the world in 1975 to the incomparable Amelia Peabody, an early feminist who decides to use her inheritance to go on an adventure in Egypt of 1884. In Rome, she discovers a starving Evelyn Forbes, the granddaughter of one of the richest men in England who had been his sole heir until eloping with an Italian artist who then proceeded to abandon her, penniless. Certain that she is ruined for life because of her immoral behavior, Evelyn is happy to be invited (actually, the way, Ms. Peabody put things, she didn’t have much choice!) to join Amelia on her trip to Egypt.
While in Cairo, the two meet Radcliffe and Walter Emerson, an archaeologist and a language specialist respectively. The two women continue their travels by taking a boat up the Nile, where Amelia discovers a passion for archaeology and the excavation of pyramids. After a week of traveling, Amelia and Evelyn encounter Walter, who desperately asks their help for his seriously ill older brother. Amelia nurses Emerson back to health until he is well enough to spar with her.
About this time, Lucas, Evelyn’s reprobate distant cousin shows up and tries to woo her, creating a complicated love triangle. Life becomes more complicated when a mummy Walter and Emerson discover gets stolen and then appears to walk at night, possibly turning its creepy, faceless attentions to Evelyn. The walking mummy frightens away the Egyptian natives, so it is left to Amelia and Emerson, who develop a growing respect for each other, to devise a plan to capture this seeming ghost.
Crocodile on the Sandbank is the first of 19 books in this highly acclaimed series. Elizabeth Peters served as a pseudonym for Barbara Mertz (1927-2013), who took a PhD in Egyptology in 1952 from the University of Chicago. It is obvious from the book that Mertz performed significant research into all the elements of 1884 Egyptian archaeology and the problems of looters who raid the tombs to plunder them for Westerners eager for souvenirs without regard for the scholarly knowledge these items can impart.
Many years ago, I happened to listen to a book much later in the series, since my library did not carry the earlier books, and I did not enjoy the book. But when, last week, Audible offered this first book in the series on sale, I decided to give it a try, and seeing how Amelia came to become an archaeologist and get to know the Emerson brothers gave me a much better reading experience than my first foray into this series. I did figure out the solution to the mystery of the walking mummy fairly early in the book, but I enjoyed seeing how the characters dealt with this problem.
Barbara Rosenblatt provides the narration of the book, and I enjoyed the way she helped to transport me to the Golden Age of Egyptian Archaeology.
Crocodile on the Sandbank, though labeled a mystery novel, has a lot more elements of adventure than the typical mystery. I enjoyed the unique setting of 19th century Egypt and the strong character of the highly independent Amelia Peabody. I considered the book to be good enough for me to purchase the second book in the series, The Curse of the Pharaohs, awarding the book four stars!
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