Heather E's Reviews > Crocodile on the Sandbank

Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
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's review
Oct 26, 2011

Read in October, 2011

I picked this book up for a reread after a hiatus of about five years, and I have to say that it's improved with maturity (mine). Narrator Amelia Peabody, a 32 year old forward-thinking Victorian spinster, has the kind of decisive character that will either delight or grate. She is verbose, egotistical, and sentimental while being entirely convinced that she is none of those things. I find her hilarious.

The story is set in Egypt, whither Amelia has ventured in search of adventure. Peters's historical research is sound (she herself has a PhD in Egyptology), and the descriptions of Egyptian peoples, culture, and archaeological excavations as described by the very opinionated Peabody are delightful. Happily, Peters resists the temptation to saddle her heroine with a late twentieth-century worldview. Forward thinking though she is, Peabody is subject to a number of Victorian prejudices and misconceptions. However, Peters's skillful handling of the first person narrative allows just enough ironic distance for the reader to able to enjoy Peabody as a wonderfully unreliable narrator. As appalling as Peabody's opinions of the "natives" sometimes are, we also get a highly amusing picture of what the Egyptian opinion of Peabody must be.

As a weaver of mystery, Peters is no Agatha Christie, but as a storyteller she is delightful. Her historical perspective, lavishly mixed with both witty and slapstick comedy, allows this book to deliver considerably more than just a mystery story.

I recommend this book for teens and up who enjoy historical settings, mystery plots, eccentric characters, and witty wordplay.
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