“When I first set eyes on Evelyn Barton-Forbes, she was walking the streets of Rome.”Opening line of “Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
According to my mother, I have a fondness for books set in Egypt around the turn of the 20th century. The glee with which I consumed the Amelia Peabody book series would substantiate her case. I found this series by Elizabeth Peters, begun in 1975, when I took up an audible subscription. Barbara Rosenblat narrates the books and she adds hugely to the experience!
Amelia Peabody is an independently wealthy 32 year old who, upon the death of her father, decides to travel and explore the world. She sets her mind to exploring Egypt. Whilst en route, she rescues Evelyn, a gentlewoman in distress, and the two friends arrive together in Egypt.
Once there, strange happenings occur, including creeping mummies, and the two ladies end up the midst of an adventure-filled mystery. They constantly encounter two archeologists, the Emerson brothers, who are as unconventional as Amelia. The dialogue between the elder brother, Radcliffe, and Amelia is hysterical. These two become the central characters to this series and are fictional favourites to me! Radcliffe is all bluster and passion and Amelia is wilful and witty!
The resolution of the mystery is surprising, I love it when a book keeps me guessing! I so enjoyed it, I immediately began book two and, before I knew it, I was waiting patiently (read impatiently) for a new book to be released! Each book is a new season in the world of archeology and includes the expanding family around Amelia, her friends and wonderful journeys into the past! They are all rich in historical detail of both ancient Egypt and 20th century living. Elizabeth had an archeological background and you can tell in the way she tells her tales, it’s captivating! Her descriptions are magical and there is always a sense of humour!
Elizabeth didn’t anticipate the popularity of the series and so, made leaps in time between each book. Upon request, she went back in time in her latter books to flesh out the “missing” seasons. Choosing your reading order is therefore complicated! Having read in publication order and then again in the characters’ chronological order, I found the second way best! But if you like a little additional mystery, the publication order will give you more to ponder on.
Strictly speaking, the series has 20 books in it but the last book, The Painted Queen, was completed by another author as Elizabeth died writing it. The tone is different and the characters don’t behave quite the way they should, so I exclude it when rereading the series
This series is one I return to annually! Around May, as I begin building fires and winter’s cold snap is in the air, I know it’s time to warm up with a fresh listen to Amelia and enjoy new details! If you are looking for a new adventure, I highly recommend this one! It’s a five out of five on the enJOYment scale!
From the back cover of Book One: The Crocodile on the Sandbank
Amelia Peabody is Elizabeth Peters’ most brilliant and best-loved creation, a thoroughly Victorian feminist who takes the stuffy world of archaeology by storm with her shocking men’s pants and no-nonsense attitude!
In this first adventure, our headstrong heroine decides to use her substantial inheritance to see the world. On her travels, she rescues a gentlewoman in distress – Evelyn Barton-Forbes – and the two become friends. The two companions continue to Egypt where they face mysteries, mummies and the redoubtable Radcliffe Emerson, an outspoken archaeologist, who doesn’t need women to help him solve mysteries — at least that’s what he thinks!