My rating: 5 of 5 stars
One of my all-time favorite authors is Elizabeth Peters, a.k.a. Barbara Michaels–and of her many, many works, my all-time favorite hands down is the Amelia Peabody series. Which starts off with a mighty roar in Crocodile on the Sandbank, a book I can go back to again and again. And do!
For those of you unfamiliar with the series, they’re the adventures of a husband and wife team of Egyptologists, set in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. Book 1 introduces spinster Amelia Peabody, who has set out to tour Egypt following the death of her father and her inheritance of a quite credible fortune from him. During her travels, she takes lovely young Evelyn Forbes under her wing, and the two of them join forces to see the great sites of Egypt.
Cue introduction to the Emerson brothers, Walter and Radcliffe–though the latter detests his given name, and from this book and all throughout the series, he is known to the reader as simply Emerson. Walter’s a gentle and charming fellow, in direct contrast to his obstreperous brother. It should be no surprise to anyone that Evelyn takes to Walter, while Amelia herself clashes with Emerson. And this, my children, lays down the beginning of a long and lively relationship.
Amelia and Emerson are absolutely stunning together. Emerson is bullheaded, tactless, and rude, and has no patience whatsoever for interfering females–while Amelia will have absolutely none of this nonsense, and gives Emerson back every bit as good as he puts forth. That their relationship really gets underway when she has to nurse him out of severe illness should not be taken as anything so plebian as the standard “heroine must nurse hero back to health” romance trope–because Peters plays it splendidly.
As if this weren’t enough (and it’s quite a bit of awesome), there is of course a mystery to solve. Not long after Amelia and Evelyn take up with the Emersons, the dig site at which they’re working is visited by nothing less than what seems to be an ambulatory mummy. There’s murder, assault, and shady suitors. I love it all. I love it all so much. (heart)
The story’s written in first person, with the schtick that it’s the first of Amelia’s many journals, written during her lifetime. Peters gives her a very florid style (Amelia is quite fond of repeatedly mentioning Emerson’s “sapphirine” eyes, for example), but given that Peters is deliberately paying homage to H.R. Haggard and similar authors, it’s very much in theme for what she’s doing. So stick with it, and look out to the end for the inevitable proposal of marriage scene, which ranks as one of my favorite marriage proposals in a novel ever.
And trust me, it’s so very much not a spoiler that Amelia and Emerson get married. In fact, I adore that they go straight to getting married, and clear the way for the length of the series to focus on their married life and their adventures together. Don’t ever let anybody tell you that you can’t base a series on a married couple, folks–because Amelia and her beloved Emerson say otherwise. And you don’t want to argue with a woman with a parasol! Five stars.