A very long time ago now, one of my best friends gave me a book that introduced me to one of my all time favorite fictional families. Crocodile on the Sandbank was the first adventure of Miss Amelia Peabody, a wealthy spinster who dreamed of seeing Egypt her whole life. Amelia is smart, stubborn, brave and has that fabulous British common sense that never ceases to amuse. Over the years, when I needed comfort reading, Amelia was one of the books I reached for. Because of that, I only just read the twelfth book this week. By the time Amelia reaches her twelfth adventure, she’s gained a husband, her own children, foster children and lots of good friends and enemies that seem to always pop up at the worse times. Seriously, I want that family to adopt me already. Amelia and her family never cease to make me laugh, make me anxious and make me want to reach in and shake them. I actually had to walk away for two days from the eleventh book because one of the characters infuriated me so much that I stormed about my apartment yelling at her. Yes, I am well aware she is fictional but if the book is that good, characters become your friends and so, as when any friend does something asinine, I wanted to help her out by telling her to snap out of it.
Another reason the Amelia Peabody mysteries rule is because of their setting. Egypt of the late 19th century/early 20th century was fascinating. They were still finding new tombs and temples. Egyptology was still being defined and Amelia and her family are the preeminent archeological experts of the day so they are involved with all the major finds of the time. I feel like I learn a lot about Egyptology into the bargain of fantastic characters and great mysteries. My friend who introduced me to the series said recently, after visiting an Egypt museum exhibit, she hadn’t realized how much she had learned until she was talking about the exhibit. It reminded me of touring the Egyptian wing at the British Museum back in 2005 and having the same realization as I explained to my mother why I recognized the names of the mummies. A book that teaches you as you solve a fun mystery and root for the characters? I need more of these in my life. I sort of live in dread of the day I catch up with Elizabeth Peters and where she is in the series because it will be a sad day when I need a comfort read and there isn’t a new Peabody mystery waiting for me on the shelves at the library. I think that is why I am not running through the series like I usually do but I recommend you rushing out and trying out the series if you haven’t yet. Amelia Peabody is the best thing that will ever happen to you.