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An Amelia Peabody Mystery

By Elizabeth Peters

Warner Books, 2002, c1975. Pbk.262 p. ($7.50)
ISBN: 0445406518

Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel

The intrepid Ms. Amelia Peabody made her appearance thirty years ago, and she's still going strong.I decided to re-read the series as a special treat, and to refresh my memory of my favorite fictional character and her many adventures. I am finding them just as much fun as I did when I first read them, all those years ago.

Peters is one of the pen names of Barbara Mertz, who earned a Ph.D. in Egyptology from the University of Chicago at a time when women were an oddity.Unable to find a job in the field, she took to writing, penning a few romance novels under the name Barbara Michaels.While researching a non-fiction work on the history of archaeology in the 19th and early 20th centuries, she decided to use her interest in Egyptology and Victorian England to write a novel, and Amelia was born.In an interview with Archaeology magazine, Mertz said that the book "got away from me. I don't believe in letting your characters take over. But Amelia sort of did, she marched onto the stage, and there she was. Not a typical Victorian heroine at all, but a bullheaded, independent woman."

Miss Amelia Peabody devoted her life to taking care of her father's household, taking care of the practical details to allow him to pursue his scholarly activities.She shared with him an interest in languages and ancient civilizations.When he died, her six brothers were not surprised that the old man left his estate to her. They were quite surprised, however, when they found out the estate amounted to a rather large fortune.Her brothers all offered her a home, and her attorney offered to marry her, but Amelia had other plans.She would see the world her father had studied. She hired a companion - not because of propriety, but because, having led a solitary life, she was lonely - and headed for Rome. Her companion promptly fell ill with typhoid, putting a serious crimp in Amelia's plans. Fortunately for all involved, Amelia's path crossed that of Evelyn Barton-Forbes, a disgraced heiress who really needed a break.Amelia, knowing a good-hearted person when she saw one, plucked her from the gutter, fed and clothed her, and took her along to see the ancient wonders of Egypt.

While visiting the museum in Cairo the two ladies made the acquaintance of the Emerson brothers, the gentle, scholarly Walter and the roaring, bad-tempered, head-strong Radcliffe, an archaeologist who did not suffer fools gladly.After that first meeting, Amelia did not care to have a second, but the fates had other plans. The four ended up together at the Emerson's excavation.Amelia discovered her healing powers, Evelyn revealed a valuable artistic talent, the gentle Walter found that he had the heart of a lion when it really counted, and Radcliffe - well, we learn that he does have a kinder, gentler side, but beware, all mummies and tomb raiders, his bite is much worse than his bark.

All's well that ends well.Radcliffe, hereafter to be known as simply "Emerson," and Amelia, finally succumb to their passion, in their own inimitable fashion. As Emerson cradles the for-once speechless Amelia, he says "Archaeology is a fascinating pursuit, but, after all, one cannot work day and night. Peabody, my darling Peabody, what a splendid time we are going to have!"And so they have.

For those who haven't discovered this wonderful series, try it, you'll like it.I recommend starting at the beginning. Traveling through time and space with the Emerson family and all their family, friends, and foes is a great and worthwhile reading pleasure.

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