Readers, I met Amelia Peabody and I do think that she is the most charming, fascinating, lively, and well-developed mystery heroine I have ever read in my entire life.
I discovered her after a friend very casually mentioned this fabulous mystery series by Elizabeth Peters about a Victorian archaeologist. It didn't sound fabulous, but I trust this friend with book recommendations, so I checked the first one out and, oh, was I in for a treat!
The Amelia Peabody mysteries are about Amelia Peabody, a middle-aged, strong-willed, stubborn woman who spends her days charging through Egypt and working and learning at excavation sites. Oh, and there are mysteries that she solves on the side, too.
This first book, Crocodile on the Sandbank, starts out with Amelia aboard a train, traveling to Egypt just after the death of her father. While on it, she meets a waif-like woman named Evelyn Barton, who is fleeing her erstwhile lover and her tyrannical grandfather, who is enraged over the fact that she ran away with the lover in the first place. Amelia firmly takes Evelyn under her wing and they proceed to Egypt, with a cousin-cum-prospective spouse for Evelyn in tow. While there, they meet the Radcliffe brothers, who are an excavating team. Sparks immediately start to fly between Evelyn and Walter, the younger brother, and Amelia and Emerson Radcliffe, the older brother, immediately decide to hate each other. However, the whole party is thrown together after a walking mummy keeps making repeated, unfriendly visits.
The party knows that it has to be an Englishman, since only a person with Western influence would think to do such a thing and so they set out to find the strange mummy. There are all kinds of adventures and near-misses and, meanwhile, Amelia and Emerson are growing strangely fond of each other.
This book really has everything-good characters with plenty of witty dialogue, an exciting plot, a smattering of romance, and a thrilling mystery. I read the book constantly for 2 days and it went with me wherever I went. This book is also responsible for a pot of soup burned to the point of inedibility.
The relationship between Emerson and Amelia was quite entertaining. It was very reminiscent of the Darcy/Lizzie romance and countless others like it that have appeared in fiction ever since Pride and Prejudice made its way into the world, but at the same time, it was different enough to not be annoying. Oh, and, spoiler alert, Amelia and Emerson do get married by the end of the book. You knew it was coming, so that wasn't a terrible spoiler.
These books were first written in the 1970s by Elizabeth Peters and I am amazed at how historically accurate they were. I think that 70s and 80s writing has a bit of a reputation as being sadly anachronistic, but there was nothing anachronistic about this writing. It was perfectly done and very historically accurate.
I really, really loved this book and think that, if you are any kind of a reader, you will like this. It was well-written and funny and exciting (oh, so exciting), and a million other adjectives, and I think that this series is something that pretty much anybody should at least read one of.