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3 cosy mysteries review series (3): Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

The love of my beloved is on yonder side
A width of water is between us
And a crocodile waiteth on the sandbank.

– Ancient Egyptian Love Poem

I first heard of Crocodile from the Sandbank from Bernadette@Reactions to Reading. I’m a novice when it comes to cosy mystery. Perhaps I don’t know any better therefore I fell in love with the one and only cosy mystery I read before this, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Series by Alexander McCall Smith. I like all things Egyptian and Crocodile from the Sandbank looks like lots of fun.

Amelia Peabody is an Egyptologist in the Victorian era. She is left with a £500,000 inheritance (a lot of money then, a lot of money now still!) after the death of her studious father, who has left her everything in his will because she is the only one of his children who shared his interests, namely history and archaeology. The inheritance enables her, with her sturdy parasol, to travel abroad, to pay for servants and lady companion, to Egypt.

On her way there Amelia rescues young Evelyn Barton-Forbes who has suitors of unsavoury character, cousin Lucas Ellesmere and Alberto, the Art teacher whom the latter abandoned Evelyn to starvation in the streets of Rome. The two women sail up the Nile and met up with the Emerson brothers – the dashing Emerson and amiable Walter who fancies Evelyn. Amelia then discovers that their little party is increased by one: an ancient mummy that walked into her bedroom one day that looks like a lively example of the dead species …..

For the first 100 pages of the book it was all about Evelyn’s various affairs of the heart with men. How each of them kept wooing for her attention and with the imminent death of Evelyn’s father, potentially Evelyn could inherit a big sum of money. Radcliffe was not particularly likeable either although the early introduction and the suffix of Amelia Peabody Emerson provides a spoiler that Amelia will soon marry Radcliffe in due time, yet the bickering and squabble between Amelia and Radcliffe is quite amusing to read. Amelia, a determined and unorthodox English female, supports women’s suffrage and believes she will never marry. Set in the Victorian time I could understand the haughtiness of Amelia Peabody and her sense of superiority with the Egyptian locals, but this and Evelyn’s affairs annoys me a little to be honest.

If anything the book title is misleading. There is no emergence of a crocodile, perhaps the bad guys are the ones figuratively speaking.  “An Amelia Peabody Murder Mystery” wasn’t exactly a good description of the genre. I have problem with the word Murder. There isn’t any murder. Somebody died at the end of the book but that is because they deserved it. The plot was predictable. If it was packaged as an adventure story, I wouldn’t have felt this cheated.

Compared to Dr. Siri’s Laos and Vish Puri’s India in its rich cultural setting with reasonably good twists of who-dunit-it stories, Amelia Peabody’s Egypt lost out to them by more than 10 miles. The good thing that came out of this is that I learnt a thing or two about archaeology excavation and hieroglyph brushing technique. Unfortunately, Amelia Peabody and I don’t click. I won’t be reading the series.


I am reading this for the Mystery & Suspense reading challenge.

Paperback. Publisher: Robinson 2006, originally published in the UK 1999; Length: 306 pages ; Setting: Victorian Egypt.  Source: Reading Battle Library. Finished reading on: 19 June 2011.

Other views:

Bernadette@Reactions to Reading: I like these books more for their sense of time and place and can forgive some annoyances with the plot.
Fremont libraries
Paper Space Ships
Things mean a lot

About the writer:

Barbara Mertz (born September 29, 1927) is an American author who writes under the pseudonyms Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels.

Barbara Mertz has a Ph.D from the University of Chicago in Egyptology, studying under John A. Wilson, which she received at the age of 23. She has written two books on ancient Egypt (both of which have been continuously in print since first publication), but has primarily written mystery and suspense novels. She has been a published writer since 1964.

Under the name Barbara Michaels, she writes primarily gothic and supernatural thrillers. The name was chosen by her publisher since she had already published one nonfiction book on ancient Egypt, and the publisher did not want her novels to be confused with her academic work. She publishes her Amelia Peabody series under the name Elizabeth Peters, a nom de plume drawn from the names of her two children.


About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.


19 thoughts on “3 cosy mysteries review series (3): Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

  1. How bizarre that the cover is misleading in so many ways! But I love the art work of the cover in any event!

    Posted by rhapsodyinbooks | June 25, 2011, 12:35 pm
    • Jill, figuratively speaking perhaps the crocodile refers to the bad guy. Sorry to disappoint, there is no crocodile in this story readers, nope, not even a glimpse of it. 🙂

      Posted by JoV | June 26, 2011, 1:15 pm
      • I can’t believe that there is no crocodile in the story! Really?? What were the publishers thinking when they designed that cover picture? 🙂

        Posted by Vishy | June 26, 2011, 3:25 pm
        • Vishy,
          Unfortunately there is no crocofile in the book. I read from crime fiction pro Bernadette @ reactions to reading that publishers get cover designers and blurb writers to write stuff that would want people like you and me to buy the book based on the “cover” designs or blurbs without taking any responsibility if what they say on the outside tally up with inside. I’ll come to that bit if I ever get to read The Preacher by Camilia Lackberg. Stay tuned. 😉

          Posted by JoV | June 26, 2011, 4:15 pm
  2. Sorry to know that you didn’t like this book much, Jo. I have been looking forward to reading it, but I am not so sure now. Maybe I will still try reading it, and will compare my thoughts with yours after that. I love books set in Egypt, but most of them are from an outsider’s perspective and show Egypt as a great civilization of a bygone age. If you like books on Egypt, I will recommend two of them. One is called ‘River God’ by Wilbur Smith. It is set during ancient times and is an interesting, adventurous novel. It has a strong heroine, who goes on to become the queen and a dashing hero and an interesting narrator, the slave Taita. Wilbur Smith normally writes adventure novels set in South Africa, but this was an odd departure from his normal work. He wrote two or three further sequels to this novel, but I haven’t read them. Another book is called ‘Tales of Ancient Egypt’ by Roger Lancelyn Green. It is quite nice and has one of my favourite tales in it, where a king is bored and his wise minister brings back the love for life in him. Roger Lancelyn Green has also written other mythology books – retellings of Greek mythology, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and Robin Hood – and all of them are good. There was a time when I used to get up in the morning and read Lancelyn Green’s books one after the other for the whole day 🙂

    Posted by Vishy | June 26, 2011, 7:19 am
    • Vishy,
      There are a lot of Wilbur Smith’s books scattered around the used bookstore and somehow I’m not sure enough to read any of his books. Since you said it’s about South Africa and one on Egypt that really intrigues me now. I wanted to read a good historical novel about Ancient Egypt but I was informed even Christian Jacq series on that and Ramses was badly written. I haven’t heard of Roger Lancelyn Green but the myths retelling interest me now. I grew up with Robin Hood and I wonder how many times of retelling would make me see Robin Hood differently, on screen or books. I’m happy to hear that those English myths kept you reading the whole day. 🙂

      p/s: at awe at how huge selection of books you have read!

      Posted by JoV | June 26, 2011, 1:26 pm
      • I hope you get to read Wilbur Smith’s ‘River God’ sometime, Jo. I think you might like it. It is one of my favourite books, though it might be my younger self speaking, because I read it at an impressionable age. I got a few books from Christian Jacq’s Egyptian series, after I went to Egypt, but after reading reviews of them somewhere, I didn’t read them. They are still lying in my bookshelf somewhere. I hope you get to try Roger Lancelyn Green’s books – they are excellent! I am in awe of the kind of books you read – you always introduce new books to your blog readers 🙂

        Posted by Vishy | June 26, 2011, 3:23 pm
        • Vishy,
          Awww.. thanks for your kind words. I’m quite eclectic and easily distracted in my reading and willing to read many different things or genre, except YA or Sci-fi / fantasy which I couldn’t get my head around. I like to read International fiction quite a bit. Books that introduces me to a different culture and people. Cheers. 🙂

          Posted by JoV | June 26, 2011, 4:11 pm
  3. I swear I have read about Amelia Peabody before…but I couldn’t remember where and when.

    Sorry you didn’t like it, but at least you finished it. I am a bit behind with my mystery and suspense challenge…hehe I join too many challenge

    Posted by Novroz | June 26, 2011, 11:55 am
  4. Oh what a shame. I’m terrible fond of this series, and it gets better and better as it goes along. I love the tongue-in-cheek way Elizabeth Peters writes, and the wry references she is always dropping to early twentieth century adventure novels that I also love. Like H. Rider Haggard and The Sheik. I’m just rereading the seventh or eighth of these books and adoring it all over again.

    Posted by Jenny | June 26, 2011, 2:08 pm
    • Jenny, A part of me thinks I should read it and hope that it will get better on latter books… we’ll see. but early 20th century’s adventure novels are always appealing! Thanks for dropping by! 🙂

      Posted by JoV | June 26, 2011, 2:21 pm
  5. What, no crocodiles, no murder? Tzz! But I might give it a try anyway, just for the pleasure of reading about a woman in the Victorian era 🙂

    Posted by Bina | June 29, 2011, 4:59 pm
    • Bina,
      Unfortunately no crocodile, and I think someone is tortured and then at the end the bad guy is dead. NO murder unfortunately! Look forward to hear what you think about this!

      Posted by JoV | June 30, 2011, 7:50 am
  6. Thanks for the review. It sounds like the cover is very misleading, although I love the colors.

    Posted by Ann | July 13, 2011, 11:50 am


  1. Pingback: Halfway there.. It’s a wrap: June 2011 « Bibliojunkie - June 30, 2011

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

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The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
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Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City

JoV's favorite books »
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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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