Elizabeth Peters' unforgettable heroine Amelia Peabody makes her first appearance in this clever mystery. Amelia receives a rather large inheritance and decides to use it for travel. On her way through Rome to Egypt, she meets Evelyn Barton-Forbes, a young woman abandoned by her lover and left with no means of support. Amelia promptly takes Evelyn under her wing, insisting that the young lady accompany her to Egypt, where Amelia plans to indulge her passion for Egyptology. When Evelyn becomes the target of an aborted kidnapping and the focus of a series of suspicious accidents and mysterious visitations, Amelia becomes convinced of a plot to harm her young friend. Like any self-respecting sleuth, Amelia sets out to discover who is behind it all.
Crocodile on the Sandbank is the first book in the Amelia Peabody Mystery series and although categorized as a mystery I think I smiled and chuckled all the way through. Amelia Peabody is such a character – a strong willed, opinionated, bossy woman, who thinks the only appeal she has is the inheritance left to her by her father.
Touring Rome Amelia’s companion falls ill and must be sent home before they can reach their final destination of Cairo. She encounters a young Englishwoman, Evelyn Barton-Forbes, who has collapsed on the grounds of the Forum of Rome. After hearing Evelyn’s shocking story of betrayal and abandonment by a man she thought loved her, Amelia determines to takes Evelyn under her wing to mentor her and be her companion on her Egyptian adventures.
This novel is a mystery, a story of self-discovery and a bit of a comedy of errors. In the end Evelyn teaches Amelia more about life, loyalty and love than she ever expected. Beneath her prickly and spunky exterior Amelia hides a kind heart. The below quote is one of my favourites in the novel and portrays Amelia to a tee.
“I watched them with the most thorough satisfaction I had ever felt in my life. I did not even wipe away the tears that rained down my face – although I began to think it was just as well Evelyn was leaving me. A few more weeks with her, and I should have turned into a rampageous sentimentalist.”
I’ve not delved too much into Egyptian archeological history so I’m not sure how true the methodology was for techniques in preserving Egyptian antiquities but I was impressed with the level of detail and how the descriptions of Cairo and Amarna come to life even though the story is fairly short. I’m sure I’ll continue on to read the rest of the series, the second book being The Curse of the Pharaohs. I would also recommend the Lady Emily Ashton series by Tasha Alexander.