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Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

Hello, everyone!  This spring, I continued my historical mystery reading spree with Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters.  This is the first book in a series set in Egypt during the Victorian era.  The main characters are English tourists and archaeologists.  The author has a Ph. D in Egyptology, and her love of the country and its history really come through in her descriptions of the sites the characters visit.

When Amelia Peabody inherits an unexpectedly large sum of money from her late father, she decides to travel to the sites of the ancient cultures she and her father studied.  She begins in Rome, where she meets Evelyn Barton-Forbes, a young noblewoman estranged from her family and currently living in poverty.  Amelia hires Evelyn to be her new companion and the two women continue on to Egypt, with plans to sail up the Nile and visit the usual Victorian Era tourist destinations.

Nile River

Nile River

Before leaving Cairo, they meet Walter and Emerson, two brothers conducting an archaeology dig.  Walter and Evelyn are immediately drawn to each other, while Amelia and Emerson’s strong personalities immediately clash.  The parties part ways, but soon meet again, when Walter interrupts the women’s progress towards Luxor, asking for help after a medical emergency at their archaeology dig.

Amelia Peabody is interested in medicine and believes she would have made a good doctor if she had been a man.  She happily agrees not only to provide medicine from her supplies, but also to help nurse Emerson back to health after his fever (despite his protests).  It soon becomes clear that there are other problems with the archaeology site.  The workers hired from a local village believe the site to be haunted, an idea which the English visitors initially dismiss, until they see the figure of a mummy walking near their campsite late one night.   The following morning, they discover that their excavation has been vandalized.  While they remain convinced that their problem is not supernatural, they need to discover who is pretending to haunt the site and why, before any more damage can be done.

This book was a wonderfully entertaining read.  The characters are well-drawn, and the way the four main personalities interact together is lots of fun!  Four strong-willed English visitors to Egypt make a very entertaining basis for a novel.  This book also reminded me that I have been meaning to read the travel memoir A Thousand Miles Up the Nile by Amelia B. Edwards, a real-life Victorian tourist to Egypt (and, I suspect, quite probably Amelia Peabody’s namesake)!  Consider it the first book on my summer reading list!

I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys a good mystery series.  If you are interested in Egypt, travelling in general, or the Victorian Era, then you really shouldn’t miss it!  Between the humor and the great characters, I give this book four and a half stars.  I can’t wait to read more of the series!  ★★★★1/2

-Elizabeth

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidstanleytravel/8612400990/”>D-Stanley</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

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