I read this long ago and enjoyed it, so when the 4-Mystery Addicts group chose it for discussion I thought I might reread (re-listen). I’ve read the first 4 of the series and I guess I must have tired of them, but I did enjoy the first few and as a reread it was, perhaps, even more enjoyable (although I did pretty much remember the thread endings).
The Amelia Peabody series was written by Barbara Mertz – a noted Egyptologist – under the pen name of Elizabeth Peters. There are 19 more in the series which ended in 2006 with one finished (by Joan Hess) but published in 2017, following Michaels’ death in 2013 (at age 85).
The Crocodile on the Sandbank
by Elizabeth Peters
1975/ 272 pages
read by Barbara Rosenblatt – 9h 51m
rating: A- / historical crime (cozy)
The year is 1884-85 and Amelia Peabody, a plain but well-to-do, recently orphaned and single, 31-year old woman has decided to set off on a trip to Egypt. Miss Peabody is the star of the show here – our first-person heroine puts on the airs of a chatty, old-fashioned snob even for her era in Victorian times. She’s hilarious and Rosenblatt reads her to perfection.
In Rome she becomes acquainted with a young woman who has been disowned by her grandfather and jilted by her lover with the result that she is destitute and totally alone. This is Evelyn Barton-Forbes and Amelia takes the poor thihg under her wing with the result that Evelyn becomes her companion and good friend. Evelyn is bright and beautiful and very loyal to Amelia. But Evelyn’s cousin, Lucas, shows up and offers to marry her – that idea doesn’t work out too well – a main plot thread as he’s an obvious fortune hunter.
The two ladies travel to an archeology dig near Cairo where Amelia begins to indulge her passion for Egyptology. The two also meet the archeologists Walter and Radcliffe Emerson. Walter has a strong attraction for Evelyn, but she’s deliberately cool – ashamed of her history.
The pair travels on to Amana, Egypt and a series of adventures including a robbery and the appearance of a wandering and malicious mummy which is apparently connected to a poisonous cobra. As the group tries to solve the mysteries the tale almost becomes a thriller complete with guns and snake-bites.
Lucas shows up again and both he and Walter are interested in Evelyn – rivals, jealousy, etc.. Amelia approves of Walter, but Evelyn is hesitant while Radcliffe may be too encouraging – for his own gain? There is much jealousy there while Evelyn is convinced Amelia is also in love in some way but how would Amelia know?
There are a few village natives involved here, too. Michael, Abdullah, and a small crew of laborers. They’re pretty interesting – the characters are the real strength of this novel – mainly because it’s the first novel of the series and that’s when characters are established.
Amelia is quite smart and a natural born amateur detective. She’s also independent to a fault with a sharp tongue and a Victorian snob but with a heart of gold. When she and Evelyn team up with the Emersons the plot definitely thickens.
There is really quite a lot of romance in this book, but for some reason it works for me – Amelia is just too charming.