by Elizabeth Peters
Book One of the Amelia Peabody Mysteries
After inheriting her father’s fortune, Amelia Peabody decides that a life of travel and adventure is what she wants. Since she has no husband or children to keep her at home, she soon sets out, shocking her fellow Victorians with her strong opinions and forceful personality. While in Rome, she picks up a companion, the beautiful Evelyn, an English noblewoman cast out of her family after eloping with an Italian scoundrel. The two women continue together to Egypt so that Amelia can study the ancient civilization. While in Cairo, they meet the Emerson brothers, and it quickly becomes clear to Amelia that Evelyn is in love with the younger brother, Walter. They join the brothers and their archeological site further up the Nile, and it’s all fun and games until a murderous mummy starts stalking the travelers…
Meant to be a parody of 19th century adventure novels, Crocodile on the Sandbank is a silly, ridiculous story. At least, I read it that way. Think of it as a Scooby Doo plot with ridiculously over-the-top characters.
Amelia Peabody acts and, in the audiobook, sounds like a fussy old school matron, albeit a feisty one. She’s only in her early thirties! But I guess being a spinster ages a woman prematurely. Her ideas are so feminist and progressive that I would accuse her of being a modern woman in petticoats, but I believe that’s part of the joke of the book so I can work with it. She contrasts nicely with Evelyn, who is the waif-like epitome of a romantic Victorian leading lady. Walter Emerson is the romantic, thoughtful scholar who spends much of the book mooning over Evelyn; for action we turn to the brash, loud masculinity of Radcliffe as he thunders about the sands of Egypt decrying the trouble women cause. In my imagination, Radcliffe looks something like Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, right down to having biceps to spare and every last inch of him covered with hair. In fact, I think that this book reminds me of a cartoon. It’s got that sort of delightful, immoderate silliness running throughout.
The mystery here is pretty weak and predictable. The cast isn’t very large, so it’s really hard to find more than one or two suspects, especially since it seems pretty clear early on that the mummy isn’t a random stranger. If you’re reading this book, it’s either because you enjoy the characters – like I said, they’re ridiculous, but also quite lovable – or because you love Ancient Egypt. It’s not a book to pick up if you want a deep, penetrating puzzle to solve.
This is a long-running series. I believe there are nineteen books out right now? I don’t know that I’ll read all of them, but next time I want to read something fluffy and fun I’ll pick another up another Amelia Peabody mystery. To those of you who are familiar with the series – do the books need to be read in order or can they be read more or less as you please?
3 out of 5 stars
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