Monday, September 28, 2015

Crocodile on the Sandbank: Review

Amelia Peabody is a force of nature--a Victorian spinster armed with a more than sufficient independent income to complement her unshakable self-confidence and independent nature. Her late father (from whence comes the income) was a scholar and antiquarian who sparked an interest in Egypt in his only daughter and companion of his waning years. Amelia's brothers pretty much abandoned them, so it was only natural for Father Peabody to leave his surprisingly large estate to her. After suffering foolish suitors (with the gleam of golden riches in their eyes) less than gladly, she decides to venture to the land of the Pharaohs on her own--well, on her own with a maid and a companion. When her companion falls ill and must be shuttled back to England in the company of a handy clergyman and his wife, Amelia most fortuitously manages to rescue young Evelyn Barton-Forbes who has been seduce by an Italian rogue who abandoned her on the streets of Rome as soon as he found out her wealthy grandfather had disowned and disinherited her when she allowed herself to be "ruined."

Of course, Amelia is not put off at all by Evelyn's past--in fact her most pressing question is fairly naughty for a Victorian lady: "Tell me, Evelyn--what is it like? Is it pleasant?" Yes, our Victorian-age heroine wants to know about s-e-x. After sorting all this out*, Amelia takes Evelyn on a s companion and they head off up the Nile to visit various archaeological wonders. They make every effort to elude Alberto--the Italian lover who has mysteriously reappeared, swearing undying love and wanting her back--as well as her cousin Lord Ellesmere (who has gained the title upon their grandfather's death) who also wants to marry Evelyn.

When they reach an archaeological site at El-Armanah, they find the Emerson brothers--grumpy but dashing Radcliffe and amiable Walter--whom they had briefly met in Alexandria. Amelia becomes entranced with the dig and Evelyn and Walter become entranced with each other--but their digging expedition is interrupted by the nightly ramblings of mummy, the refusal of the locals to work on the site because of said mummy's cures, suspicious accidents, a botched kidnapping, and the disappearance of Amelia's faithful Egyptian servant. And the appearance of Lord Ellesmere only serves to confuse the issue more.  Radcliffe and Amelia become convinced that there is a plot afoot to harm Evelyn. It will take all their ingenuity to outwit the villain or villains behind the mummy's curse.

Miss Amelia Peabody's debut in Crocodile on the Sandbanks (1975) by Elizabeth Peters is delightful. She springs forth in the first chapter, fully formed and, as mentioned above, a force of nature. A force that not even the irascible Radcliffe can resist for long. She is gruff but lovable and a character that I enjoyed very much. Peters writes a very witty and easy reading mystery. It is, admittedly, much more fun than it is mystifying--how Amelia as intelligent as she is could have been hoodwinked by that...oops, that would be a bit baffling. Maybe she was distracted by her verbal sparring with Radcliffe.  Readers looking for an intricate puzzle to unravel should look elsewhere. But if you want interesting characters, a bit of Egyptian mystical mummy adventures, witty dialogue, and a great deal of fun then grab a copy and settle in for a fun read. ★★

*Oh...and Evelyn does answer Amelia's question: "Oh, Amelia, under the right circumstances, it is--in a word--perfectly splendid!"

This counts for the "Animal in the Title" square on the Silver Vintage Bingo Card

1 comment:

fredamans said...

My girlfriend, Becca, is reading this one right now as her mom recommended it. Nice to see she isn't the only one to enjoy it. I am quite fascinated now. Great review!