The Crocodile on the Sandbank


Elizabeth Peters


Mystery / Thriller


Date Reviewed:

November 2, 2007

art way through this novel, I thought to myself: "This seems like a script for a Scooby Doo cartoon". There are many similarties: a child could guess who the bad-guy is right off the bat - the villain dresses up as a mummy to scare away our heroes. The heroine of the book is brainy but unlovely Amelia Peabody - everyone under-estimates her, but she solves the crime - does that sound anything like Vilma, the brainy girl in Scooby Doo? In Rome, Amelia picks up a young, beautiful (but ultimately resourceful) compatriot - Evelyn - she is nice to look at, but not nearly as interesting a character as Amelia - does that sound anything like Daphne, from the Mystery Van? In the desert, Amelia and Evelyn meet up with two archaeologists who are brothers - the older brother is a shaggy, long limbed, wild eyed character named Radcliffe Emerson - in my mind's eye, Radcliffe looks exactly like Shaggy. If only Radcliffe had uttered a "Zoinks!" at one point! Finally, Radcliffe's younger brother is the good looking, muscular and amiable Walter. Walter sounds just like Fred, who drove the Mystery Van. The only thing missing is Scooby Doo himself.

The plot is transparently thin. Evelyn is a beautiful young heiress, but she has been disinherited and "ruined" by dastardly villain named Alberto. Evelyn learns that her father has died, but since she has been disinherited, there no reason to return to England. Oddly enough, Alberto suddenly wants to reunite with Evelyn, whom he had previously abandoned. Hmm, now why might Alberto be pursuing Evelyn so ardently?

The natives of Egypt (which is where most of the action takes place - Amelia is a wealthy heiress in her own right, and has decided to tour around the world with her money. She was on her way to Egypt when she encountered the distraught Evelyn in Rome) are portrayed as second class citizens - they have no wealth, they are a backwards, superstitious lot, they exist solely to serve the European heroes. Amelia travels in grand style - with fancy clothes, proper food for tea, and of course no one would dream of sailing up the Nile without a piano!

There is melodrama - oh no, a moaning mummy! - but nothing too distressing, Amelia is pretty much able to set things write with a good poke from her umbrella. Everything is entirely predictable.

I have no idea why this series is so popular, perhaps it is targeted toward the Young Adult audience? But the Amelia Peabody mysteries are shelfed in the adult section of the library. It looks like there at least 15 books in this series, but I doubt I will read any additional books. There are better mysteries than these. If I want Scooby Doo, I will watch the original on Saturday morning.