The Hippopotamus Pool by Elizabeth Peters – 1996
Since I read “Crocodile on the Sandbank” almost thirty years ago, I’ve been madly in love with the observant, intelligent, and mule-headed Amelia Peabody. Set in the 1800s, Amelia is an amateur Egyptologist who always stumbles upon a murder, a robbery, or a kidnapping as she accompanies her husband on digs.
I’ve read most of the Peabody books, and I enjoy them a great deal for several reasons. First of all, Elizabeth Peters is adept at the first person POV. When we are reading, we are Amelia Peabody. Elizabeth Peters has a writing style that literally pulls you into the story. I’m always surprised when I finish a chapter that I don’t see sand dunes outside my window.
Secondly, her characters age and change with each book. Amelia began the book series as a spinster who toured Egypt and ended up with a handsome husband, a precocious son, and an adopted daughter. In Hippopotamus, she and the family are in search of a queen’s undisturbed burial chamber, but competitor archeologists, tomb raiders, and an increasing pile of dead bodies keep interfering with her efforts.
Nefer, her adopted daughter from an earlier adventure, is coming of age and a beautiful young woman. Ramses, Amelia’s pre-adolescent son is smitten with her, but more intrigued his father may have found an actual treasure map to the queen’s chamber. Amelia, long past shocking everyone by wearing pants and grabbing a shovel, is unable to divine what her energetic husband is up to. For once, he is hiding something from her.
An injured boy with a secret, in-laws trying to forget the death of their child, and numerous potential bad guys form the subplots of this exciting and comfortable tale. I like my detectives to be smart, atypical, and bit of a round peg in a square hole.
I was sad to hear that Elizabeth Peters (Dr. Barbara Mertz) had passed away recently. She, and her supernatural pseudonym, Barbara Michaels, will be greatly missed. Not just for her Amelia Peabody stories but for all the tales of her atypical heroines – such as Vicky Bliss and Jacqueline Kirby – who refused to listen when others told them to sit down and shut up.
“No woman really wants a man to carry her off, she only wants him to want to do it.” Elizabeth Peters.
I’m really going to miss Amelia.