Amelia Peabody series

Amelia Peabody series

Infobox Book

image_caption = First edition cover for "Crocodile on the Sandbank"
name = Amelia Peabody Series
author = Elizabeth Peters
country = United States
language = English
genre = Mystery, Thriller, Historical fiction, Satire, Comedy
publisher = Morrow/HarperCollins flagicon|USA (current)
release_date = 1975 – 2006
media_type = Print (Hardback & Paperback) and
pages = 6,486

The Amelia Peabody series is a series of mystery novels written by Elizabeth Peters featuring Egyptologist Amelia Peabody Emerson, for whom the series is named. The novels are intended as a blend of parody (mostly of the adventure novel, such as written by H. Rider Haggard), mystery, and comedy. The series spans a thirty-eight year period from 1884 to 1922 and is primarily set in Egypt, with some installments including action in England and Gaza. Only one novel in the series ("Deeds of the Disturber") has been set entirely outside of Egypt, taking place entirely in England.

The first installment, "Crocodile on the Sandbank", was first published in 1975. By the late 1990s, new books were published at the rate of one annually, with many of the later books in the series appearing on the "New York Times" Bestseller List for fiction. As of the latest installment ("Tomb of the Golden Bird" in 2006), the Amelia Peabody Series consisted of 18 novels as well as one non-fiction companion book, "".

The series has been written in chronological order, with the exception of Guardian of the Horizon, which was the sixteenth book published, but is the 11th book in the series' own chronology. Elizabeth Peters has suggested that any future installments in the series may also be written out of sequence.

eries Narrative

The earlier books in the series are written entirely as first-person narrative from the point of view of Amelia herself. Beginning with "Seeing a Large Cat", Amelia's narrative is interspersed with excerpts from "Manuscript H," a third person narrative that follows the adventures of the younger generation of the family, the author of which is eventually revealed to be Walter 'Ramses' Emerson himself. On rare occasion, other points of view are introduced in the form of letters and additional manuscripts.

Amelia Peabody is introduced in the series' first novel, "Crocodile on the Sandbank" as a confirmed spinster, suffragist, and scholar. She inherits a fortune from her father and leaves England to see the world, with the side benefit of escaping various suitors and family members who were neither aware that she would be the sole beneficiary of her father's estate nor that he had amassed a small fortune over the course of his lifetime.

In Rome, Amelia meets Evelyn Barton-Forbes, a young Englishwoman of social standing who has run off with (and subsequently been abandoned by) her Italian lover, and the two make their way to Egypt. There they meet the Emerson brothers, Egyptologist Radcliffe and his philologist brother Walter. Over the course of the first book the couples pair up: Amelia marries Radcliffe (referred to throughout the series by his last name "Emerson"), and Evelyn marries Walter.

Following the birth of their son Ramses (né Walter) Emerson ("as swarthy as an Egyptian and as arrogant as a Pharaoh"), the Emersons initially settle in Kent, from where Emerson commutes to a job lecturing in Egyptology at university in London. Despite Amelia's suggestions that he resume seasonal digs in Egypt, Emerson insists on staying England with his family while Ramses is too young to travel.

Peabody and Emerson return to Egypt at least once without Ramses ("The Curse of the Pharaohs") in 1892 before deciding to bring him along on their annual digs ("The Mummy Case"), beginning in the 1894-95 season. Amelia's desire to explore pyramids is countered by Emerson's refusal to be diplomatic with the Egyptian Service d'Antiquites, resulting in their "firman" (permit) to excavate at Mazghuna, a minor pyramid field southwest of Cairo.

While the Emersons are excavating at Mazghuna, they encounter an enigmatic criminal mastermind who runs an illicit underground antiquities trade, stealing artifacts from tombs, which puts him at odds with the Emersons. Amelia initially calls "The Master Criminal," although his "nom de guerre" is eventually revealed to be Sethos. Sethos is initially presented as a rival to Emerson for Amelia's affections, but becomes an important part of the Emerson's large circle of friends, allies, and acquaintances in later books, as it is discovered he is Emerson's half-brother Seth.

The Emerson family expands during the 1897-1898 season while on an archaeological expedition to Nubia. The family encounters a hitherto unknown civilization in a remote wadi in the desert ("The Last Camel Died at Noon"), becomes embroiled in turbulent politics, and discovers Nefret Forth, the daughter of a long-presumed dead explorer. Nefret returns to England with the Emersons and becomes their ward, later their adopted daughter, and eventually their daughter-in-law by marriage to Ramses.

The family expands again in the 1899-1900 season when the family encounters David Todros, the son of Abdullah's estranged daughter and her Christian husband. David is living in a state of semi-slavery, working for a forger of antiquities. He is taken in by Evelyn and Walter Emerson as ward. David later marries Evelyn and Walter's daughter Amelia (known as Lia to avoid confusion with her aunt).

Additional characters in the series include members of the large Egyptian family who support them in their digs. The head of the family is Abdullah ibn al-Wahhab, Emerson's "reis" or foreman, who supervises their archaeological digs. Abdullah has several children, among them his youngest son, Selim, who, originally assigned as a bodyguard of sorts for Ramses ("The Mummy Case"), eventually replaces his father as "reis".

A number of prominent figures from the time appear in the novel as characters, including Howard Carter, William Flinders Petrie, Gaston Maspero, and E. A. Wallis Budge, whom Emerson considers an arch-rival (even if the feelings are not mutual). Another recurring character is that of Cyrus Vandergelt, an American entrepreneur who finances a number of archaeological expeditions in the Valley of the Kings (with little success) and becomes a close friend and confidant of the Emerson clan. (The Vandergelt character is at least partly based on Theodore Davis, the American entrepreneur who first hired Howard Carter to dig in the Valley of the Kings.)

Archaeological inspirations

Most of the archaeological achievements attributed to the Emerson-Peabodys were, in reality, accomplished by many of the archaeologists who pass through the novels as supporting characters. For example, the excavations that Emerson and Walter are undertaking at Amarna in 1884 (in "Crocodile on the Sandbank") are based on those conducted by Sir William Flinders Petrie in 1891. Peters has indicated that the character of Radcliffe Emerson is based in part on Petrie, whose meticulous excavation habits were legendary and set a new standard for archaeological digs.

In other instances, fictional accomplishments are ascribed to Amelia and Emerson. For example, the tomb of the 17th Dynasty Queen Tetisheri, whose discovery and excavation form the basis of the plot in "The Hippopotamus Pool" has, in fact, never been found. Most scholars suggest that the tomb - assuming that it still survives - would be found in the general area where the Emerson-Peabodys discover it. The intact Old Kingdom burial found in "The Falcon at the Portal" is also fictional; in fact, no intact burials from the Old Kingdom period have ever been found.


This list includes the year a story takes place, the location, and the title of the book. The archaeologist's "season" generally begins in the fall and concludes in the spring, so each story spans part of two years.
# 1884-85, Amarna, "Crocodile on the Sandbank"
# 1892-93, Valley of the Kings, "Curse of the Pharaohs"
# 1894-95, Mazghuna, "The Mummy Case"
# 1895-96, Dashur, "Lion in the Valley"
# Summer 1896, London and Kent, "Deeds of the Disturber"
# 1897-98, The Lost Oasis (Sudan), "The Last Camel Died at Noon"
# 1898-99, Amarna, "The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog"
# 1899-1900, Dra' Abu el-Naga', "The Hippopotamus Pool"
# 1903-04, "Seeing a Large Cat"
# 1906-07, Valley of the Kings, "The Ape Who Guards the Balance"
# 1907-08, The Lost Oasis, "Guardian of the Horizon" (published out of sequence)
# 1911-12, Zawyet el'Aryan, "The Falcon at the Portal"
# 1914-15, Giza, "He Shall Thunder in the Sky"
# 1915-16, Giza, "Lord of the Silent"
# 1916-17, Gaza and Deir al-Madinah, "The Golden One"
# 1919-20, "Children of the Storm"
# 1922-23, Valley of the Kings, "The Serpent on the Crown"
# 1922-23, Valley of the Kings (tomb of Tutankhamun), "Tomb of the Golden Bird"

Other locations

*Luxor (previously Thebes)
*Deir el-Bahri

Future of the Series

In a 2003 [ book talk] at the Library of Congress, Elizabeth Peters revealed that her overall plan for the Amelia Peabody series was to continue the series chronologically through World War I and end with events surrounding the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. This stated goal was accomplished with the publication of "Tomb of the Golden Bird" in 2006. The events of that book did seem to wrap up most of the series' loose plot lines, although it did not include a definitive ending to the series per se.

In the same talk, Peters suggested that any future installments after this point would "fill in the gaps" in the series' chronology, as she has done with "Guardian of the Horizon", which filled part of the four-year gap between "The Ape Who Guards the Balance" and "The Falcon at the Portal".

In the summer 2007 issue (number 50) of her [ fan newsletter] , Peters announced that she has "another contract for Amelia," but did not indicate how many books have been contracted or whether they will continue the series chronologically or be written out of sequence. Given a hectic publishing schedule that includes two re-edited non-fiction books and a new installment in the Vicky Bliss series, it seems unlikely that a new book in the Amelia Peabody series will appear before 2009.

ee also

*List of characters in the Amelia Peabody series


* [ Maps and timelines] of the Emersons' travels at the official Amelia Peabody website

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