Review – The Amelia Peabody Series by Elizabeth Peters

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I can talk for literally hours about my absolute favorite books, the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters. But I promise, I won’t. Maybe. I’ll try to be brief because I don’t want to give any spoilers, and the series is so complex and far-reaching that it’s hard to summarize it all here.

It’s challenging to fit the Amelia Peabody books into one genre, but typically they’re considered mysteries or suspense. I consider them comedic romantic mysteries, but they’re so much more than that.

So. Much. More.

This is a series of nineteen — yes NINETEEN books (well, techincally there are twenty, but I’ll touch on that later) which feature Amelia Peabody and her family, who work as Egyptologists in the late 19th to early 20th centuries. The first book starts in 1884, and the series continues through the discovery of a little known Pharaoh named… Tutankhamun.

These are some of the funniest books I’ve ever read. The interactions between the intelligent and independent Amelia Peabody and surly, rough-hewn Egyptologist Radcliffe Emerson will have you in tears laughing. And a precocious little boy named Ramses… Oh my, just wait to see what becomes of him!

There are several romantic plots in the series, although none are so heated that you’d blush in public while reading them. Just gorgeous, lush love stories that get better and better as the series progresses.

The mystery plots are stunningly well-developed and it’s not at all easy to figure out who actually “done it”. While very accurate historically, events are obviously tweaked a bit to fit the plots. However, Peters is a geniune master of her craft. Any reference to actual events are completely seemless.

The best part of this series though, is that they were all gloriously narrated by Barbara Rosenblat. Hands down, she is my favorite narrator to have ever stood behind a microphone. You will not believe she’s one person. Seriously. You won’t. She nails dozens of accents. She ages the characters through the series (1884-1923). If a dozen Arabic characters are talking, you still know who’s who. I’m telling you, get the audio. But ONLY by Rosenblat. Others have attempted it and they’re awful!!!! Trust me. Please. I beg you.

Caveat Emptor. There are a few things to keep in mind. First, a couple of the books were published out of order in Amelia’s timeline. This doesn’t really present a problem if you want to read them in order of publication date. They’re more like flashbacks in that aspect. However, I believe reading them in chronological order according to the year — or season — the book deals with will give you the best experience. I’ll include the reading order below.

Second, as I mentioned above, there are technically twenty books in the series. Tragically, Elizabeth Peters died in 2013, before completing the 20th novel, The Painted Queen (set in the 1912 season, when the bust of Nefertiti is stolen). It was finished by Joan Hess, to mixed reviews. Some call it brilliant. Some call it fanfiction. Some call it a hot mess. I have not read it and don’t plan to. Since the plot is another flashback to earlier years, I know I won’t miss anything by skipping this book. The first nineteen books are a beautifully sculpted tale that needs no further detailing by another hand. I wince at the thought of another author chipping away at Peters’ brilliance. She is the greatest influence on my own writing, and I can only hope to aspire to her genius.

READING ORDER (click on the title to find the book on Amazon)
Crocodile On The Sandbank (1975) 1884-85 season
Curse of the Pharaoahs (1981) 1892-93
The Mummy Case (1985) 1894-95
Lion In The Valley (1986) 1895-96
The Deeds Of The Disturber (1988) Summer 1896
The Last Camel Died At Noon (1991) 1897-98
The Snake, The Crocodile, And The Dog (1992) 1989-99
The Hippopotamus Pool (1996) 1899-1900
Seeing A Large Cat (1997) 1903-04
The Ape Who Guards The Balance (1998) 1906-07
Guardian Of The Horizon (2004) 1907-08
A River In The Sky (2011) 1910
The Falcon At The Portal (1999) 1911-12
He Shall Thunder In The Sky (2000) 1914-15
Lord Of The Silent (2001) 1915-16
The Golden One (2002) 1916-17
Children Of The Storm (2003) 1919-20
The Serpent On The Crown (2006) 1921-22
Tomb Of The Golden Bird (2007) 1922-23

Here is the link for the series on Audible, but remember to choose Barbara Rosenblat’s version!!!! Susan O’Malley’s attempt is miserable in comparison.

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