Crocodile on the Sandbank – Elizabeth Peters
Robinson Publishing, 2000
When her scholarly father dies and leaves her a woman of independent means, Amelia Peabody has no intention of settling quietly into the respectable marriage everyone expects. Instead, she sets off to explore Egypt, on the way encountering a penniless young lady cut adrift in the streets of Rome, a pair of unconventional archaeologists and an unusually animate mummy. Amelia does not believe in curses. As danger pursues them down the Nile, however, and the mystery grows ever more inexplicable, one thing is clear: the mummy had better believe in her.
First published in 1975, this is the first in a long series of Amelia Peabody adventures. It’s not surprising; she is a delightfully indomitable heroine who can handle anything thrown at her with a disgusted sniff and a jab of her parasol. Her friend Evelyn, while mostly consistent, gets weighed down with predictable melodrama in the second half of the book, which made me like her considerably less. In fact, I found the romantic elements of the book a bit exasperating, and was also conflicted over the embarrassingly authentic 19th century attitudes – but that authenticity is an integral part of the plot and setting, and is subverted just often enough. Crocodile on the Sandbank is not a book to be taken seriously; it’s a light-hearted, good-natured romp with bonus archaeology. The series continues with The Curse of the Pharaohs.