Friday Review: Crocodile on the Sandbank (Amelia Peabody #1) by Elizabeth Peters Audiobook

Crocodile on the Sandbank (Amelia Peabody, #1)Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amelia Peabody is a strong-willed, independent woman of the Victorian age. She has lived with and cared for her father, a scholar who passed on his love of history, and particularly, Egypt to his daughter. Upon his death, Amelia inherits his fortune and decides to travel to Egypt herself to see the grandeurs she has come to love. A stop in Rome crosses her path with Evelyn, a young lady whose reputation has been ruined by a gigolo. Amelia, with her disdain for what she considers absurd custom, rescues Evelyn from her predicament, and hires the girl as her traveling companion. They reach Egypt, where they become involved in an archaeological excavation by the Emerson brothers. It soon becomes apparent that Evelyn and the younger brother, Walter, are falling in love. Things are complicated by the gigolo, who seems to want Evelyn back, and Evelyn’s cousin, who wants to marry the girl. Amelia and the older brother hit it off like oil and water, although he begins to accept that she does know her archaeology and could be of some small help. They discover a mummy, which soon goes missing and seems to have become animated with designs on Evelyn. The natives are sure it is a curse, which Amelia immediately dismisses. But something is definitely going on, and Amelia is going to get to the bottom of it, even if it means ruining every gown she owns.

This is a light mystery, with just a bit of romance. It’s the sort of book I enjoy reading simply and purely for fun. I had read a few of the Amelia Peabody books years ago, but I read them out of sequence and never got around to all of them. I decided that for the rest of this year, I will borrow these on audiobook from the library and listen to as many as I can before the year’s end.

It’s clear that Peters (a nom de plume of Barbara Mertz) knows more than a bit about Egyptology and the archaeological efforts of the Victorian English. Facts and history about ancient Egypt are woven into the fictional aspects of the story smoothly for the most part. Perhaps a few rather long stretches of the facts can be ignored as fictional license. There is a sense of thumbing the nose at the conventions of Victorian society that lends an air of humor to the stories. Descriptions of the desert and other parts of Egypt are vivid and easy to imagine. Characters are not especially deep, but that’s fine. This sort of story doesn’t need intense characterizations. It’s enough to like (or dislike, as the case may be) the heroes and villains. One of the romances in this story is rather obvious in its conclusion, but that is also a hallmark of this style.

The narration by Susan O’Malley is quite good. She does a spot on take on Amelia’s voice, and as the book is narrated by Amelia, getting her right is key.

These are not the stories for someone looking for a complex, twisted, and difficult to figure out mystery. But the combination of accuracy, personality, and humor make it quite a nice, light read.

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