This month I am highlighting another “blast from the past” (as the oldies radio stations used to say) in the continuance of my series of posts about the most popular and recommended Cozy mystery series. Elizabeth Peters‘ Amelia Peabody series began way back in 1975 with Crocodile on the Sandbank and continued until 2017 with the 20th book in the series co-written by Joan Hess, no less.
Crocodile on the Sandbank is, at its heart, an adventure (with some romance thrown in!) story. Set in Victorian times in the 19th century, the story is narrated in the first person by Amelia Peabody, a (mostly) enlightened no-nonsense woman who unexpectedly receives an inheritance that allows her a certain amount of freedom. She resolves to use some of the money to travel to Europe and ultimately Egypt.
Along the way, she encounters a young disinherited heiress who has fainted in the ruins of the Roman Forum. Amelia swoops in to save the day. Ultimately, Amelia hires the young woman, Evelyn Barton-Forbes to be her traveling companion, and the adventures and mysterious occurrences begin.
The pair travel to Egypt. Amelia has a special interest in Egyptology (as had her father), and it turns out she also has a gift for archeology. Of course, in the 19th century, archeology as a true science was pretty new, and women were discouraged from pursuing any vocation outside of the home. So, even though there are many obstacles in her way, Amelia more or less falls into the field of Egyptology which becomes one of the passions of her life.
Crocodile on the Sandbank is written in what I would call a classic style. The first-person narrative unfolds at a quite leisurely pace. The mystery takes quite a few pages to begin to unfold. If you are someone who wants a murder to happen within the first few pages of a cozy mystery, you must look elsewhere! But, if you are looking for something a bit different — more like a mystery and adventure movie from the 1930s or 40s, this story, I think, will fulfill your wishes.
Elizabeth Peters (aka Barbara Michaels and Barbara Mertz) writes a compelling story set in the world of 19th century Egyptology. She had a Ph.D. in Egyptology from the University of Chicago, so it is not surprising that the details about archeology and Egyptian history seem (to my untrained eye at least) invariably accurate. The narrative is very well written, and though the pace seems leisurely, I guess that is what I was in the mood for because I found it difficult to put the book down as I followed Amelia and Evelyn’s adventures.
A few words of warning should be given, however. I said earlier that Amelia Peabody is “mostly” enlightened for a reason. Although for a Victorian British woman, Amelia is extremely enlightened from a feminist point of view, she still is a woman of her times from the point of view of paternalistic colonialism. I think her point of view is portrayed correctly from the standpoint of a British woman who is writing in the 19th century. But our modern sensibilities toward colonialism are not well represented.
If you’re interested in seeing other most recommended or popular Cozy Mystery authors/series, please visit the Most Popular & Recommended Cozy Mystery Series page on my site.