Crocodile on the Sandbank

Author: Elizabeth Peters

Single, unorthodox, decidedly strong-willed, and (following her scholarly father’s death) wealthy, Amelia Peabody decides to travel–both for personal enrichment and to get away from all the fortune hunters who she finds are inspiring her to cynicism. On her way to Egypt via Rome, Amelia picks up Evelyn, a stray kitten of a girl who quickly becomes her dear friend–the sister she never had, one might say. Upon reaching Egypt, the two young women find a world of wonder with which they swiftly fall in love. Matters become a bit more complicated, however, when Evelyn also falls in love with Walter Emerson, a young archaeologist there . . . particularly as this archaeologist’s older brother (who goes simply by Emerson) and Amelia seem to have an immediately antagonistic reaction to one another. What with one thing and another, Amelia and Evelyn end joining the Emerson brothers at their dig in Amarna, moving in to one of the pyramids there. And of course, Amelia’s not going to sit quietly while rumors are circulating that the site is cursed . . . nor while mummies walk in the night!

I absolutely love Crocodile on the Sandbank, as well as every other Amelia Peabody story I’ve ever read. The characters are extremely strong–in less accomplished hands, they would likely overwhelm the author entirely. Yet here they are written with a deft skill and never failing humor that drive the plot forward relentlessly. The story is fun, exciting, and with the perfect blend of suspense and predictability for a delightful mystery/adventure novel. One of my favorite facets of this book is actually the historical/cultural aspect: it is set almost entirely in Egypt in the late 19th century and is rich with the flavor of this era, down to the naming conventions of the day. Additionally, there is abundant reference to archaeology, historical figures, and even to ancient Egyptian history and culture. Crocodile on the Sandbank is both thrilling and thoughtful, making it a historical mystery that is several cuts above most of its so-called peers.

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