Mystery, adventure, lots of sass, and a bit of Victorian feminism all wrapped up in one novel. Miss Amelia Peabody is the embodiment of the revolutionary woman. She will not allow any society to dictate what is respectable. I was introduced to her adventures when I was young, probably twelve. My mom let me listen to some of her audio books to help me sleep, and these recordings included some of Elizabeth Peter’s novels. From then on I became very attached to this victorian woman and her family as they explored the burning deserts of Egypt in their search for historical artifacts. Surprisingly this first novel in the series was not one that I read. There may be some questions from the reader about characters and events, but for the most part the Amelia Peabody mysteries can be read out of order with little to no difficulty.
After the death of her father, Amelia Peabody, now a wealthy spinster strikes out to do that which she has always wanted: to travel the world. As she prepares to embark for Egypt she encounters a young woman with a troubled past. Taking a liking to her Amelia takes her under her wing as she travels to Egypt where mysterious things begin happening to them. At first Amelia brushes the occurrences aside, but when their camp is harassed by a mummy she realizes something more sinister is afoot. As their travels bring them into contact with a variety of people including a deceptive ex-husband, a doting cousin, and a stubborn archeologist and his brother Amelia will have to decide who is to be trusted.
In a word: fun. Unfortunately I’ve already said this and you’re all looking for something a bit more detailed.
Amelia Peabody is a role model for the free thinking independent woman “who don’t need no man.” Her decisions are both humorous and infuriating as she refuses to take no for an answer. This may be a bit of a turn off for some though her personality is a bit of a turn off for some of the other characters as well so that isn’t surprising. The story is told in a semi-journalistic form which will give you a problem if you don’t like characters breaking the fourth wall. I am usually frustrated when an author uses this technique, but I have found that it has its time and place. Elizabeth Peters uses the tool to her advantage in order to provide exposition in a way that is least intrusive to the flow of the story.
Peters also captures the time period in both setting and personality with precision. She does glorify ancient Egypt, and some readers may not like the almost magical qualities she includes, but even her exaggerations fit with the time period. During the late 1880s (which is when this book takes place) the world was experiencing a new excitement about archeology, Egypt being a popular location. Peters captures this excitement through her characters and displays it to the reader as a sense of adventure. Her success in doing this is one reason why I have enjoyed her books.
If your idea of a good mystery is something by Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, or Arthur Conan Doyle than Amelia Peabody may not be quite what you’re expecting. Her adventures are just that: adventures. There is a strong mystery aspect which are well done, but the flow of the story and the style of mystery is a bit different. That being said, if you haven’t experienced any of Amelia Peabody than you should visit your local library to sample some of her strong minded personality for yourself.