I briefly mentioned this book in my last ‘what are we reading’ post at the beginning of February. It is the first in the Amelia Peabody mystery series… I’m now reading the fifth which should give you some indication of how this review is going to pan out!
As I previously mentioned, Amelia Peabody is a Victorian era self-proclaimed spinster who has the good fortune to be pretty wealthy. This means she can pick and choose the strict social conventions of the time that she will pay heed to and is considered merely eccentric rather than scandalous; it also means she can up sticks and travel to Egypt to indulge in her fascination of Egyptology. She travels via Rome where she meets Evelyn, a young woman who has been led astray by a nefarious man and is therefore a social outcast and ruined forever and ever. Amelia doesn’t give two figs about this particular social convention and so hires Evelyn to be her companion (not so much for the chaperonage but more for the actual company).
When the two ladies get to Egypt they briefly meet the Emerson brothers, Radcliffe and Walter. Walter’s a bit wimpy but dreadfully clever and lovely. Radcliffe (only ever to be known as Emerson) is a full on alpha male who is shouty, and bearded, muscly and grumpy but with a fabulous sense of honour and dedication to his noble cause of archaeology etc. Emerson and Amelia do not have a particularly amiable first meeting which clearly a sign of what’s to come
Cue the appearance of the despicable rascal that ruined Evelyn- throw in her cousin who has a dynastic agenda and some mysterious nocturnal disturbances and the ladies hasten to start their Nile trip. During their exploration, Amelia and Evelyn encounter the two brothers again, at their excavation. Emerson is dreadfully unwell and Amelia steps in to nurse him back to health. This is where the story really gets going. Mysterious Mummy appearances, accidents and restless natives lead Amelia to the conclusion that something is definitely fishy about the whole situation and she will not rest until she has got to the bottom of it.
I’ve been a bit wordy in my description of the opening few chapters of Crocodile on the Sandbank, and admittedly this is something that the novel occasionally suffers from. On the whole, however, it is a riotous narrative, casually satirising the adventure novels of the 1930s. Amelia is a fabulous protagonist and you will be cheering for her and her parasol at every turn! She is strong-willed, wonderfully ahead of her time, kind, compassionate, and intelligent. Her fellow heroes are equally well endowed with wonderful qualities although Elizabeth Peters is careful to give them vices and character flaws to balance them out.
The plot is fairly ridiculous but as it is lampooning the 1930s adventure serials, it is fittingly ridiculous. And come to think of it, it is actually a good mystery to try to solve. I don’t think seasoned readers of Agatha Christie would have any trouble discovering the villain but working out all the whys and wherefores is diverting.
Upon finishing I immediately borrowed the next book in the series and am now on my fifth- this sums up my recommendation to you all!
I am going to take a break after this one but not because they have become any less entertaining!
4 bites for this little morsel