Elizabeth Peters

Elizabeth Peters was one of the pseudonyms of American author Barbara Mertz, which she used from 1968 until her death in 2013. She published a broad range of literature across a multitude of series including, but not limited to, her most famous work – the 19-book Amelia Peabody series. She was so invested in that series that the name of the titular character was drawn from the author’s two children. She was also responsible for the Vicky Bliss series, the Jacqueline Kirby series, and almost a dozen other works of fiction.

Born in a small town in Illinois in 1927, Barbara Mertz spent much of her early life reading. She consumed such works of fiction as Mark Twain, Shakespeare, Dracula, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and many others. She claimed that being a compulsive reader helps being a writer, while it took her over a quarter of a century to realize that writing was her true calling and what she should have spent her life devoted to. She passed away at the age of 85 near her home in Frederick, Maryland.

Her work was met with widespread praise throughout her career and she was the recipient of numerous awards. She was awarded a PhD in Egyptology in 1952, named Grand Master at the first Anthony Awards in 1986, and named Grand Master at the Edgar Awards in 1998. Some of the accolades attributed to her work include a nomination for “Best Novel” at the Anthony Awards in 1988; winning the 1989 Agatha Award for “Best Novel”; several “Best Novel” nominations at the Agatha Awards; the first Amelia Peabody Award in 2012. Noted literary critics have similarly heaped praise upon her work. Sarah Booth Conroy of the Washington Post described the Amelia Peabody series as the equivalent of consuming many alcoholic beverages as it was a guarantee that, in a time of sadness, good will always triumph over evil. Paul Theroux once said that in a straight fight between Amelia Peabody and Indiana Jones, Amelia would win in a landslide.

Her most famous and enduring work, the Amelia Peabody series, began in 1975 with the publication of the first novel in the series, Crocodile on the Sandbank. The series centers on the character of Amelia Peabody, a female Egyptologist, who inherits a large sum of money from her father and later decides to leave her home in England to travel the world. The series often takes a somewhat humorous stance on proceedings, often going so far as to be considered parody, as it makes light of the tropes of the period.

At the outset of the series the writing was entirely in the first-person perspective; they were depicted as the journals of Amelia Peabody. The latter novels in the series were interspersed with fragments from a third-person perspective. The success of the series led to its publication in English, French, German, Greek, and Japanese.

The first novel in the series, Crocodile on the Sandbank, is set in 1884 and introduces the unorthodox character of Amelia Peabody. At the age of thirty-two she inherits a fortune from her father and travels to Egypt in order to indulge in her one true passion: Egyptology. There, she encounters her future protégée, Evelyn Barton-Forbes, and the two depart on an adventure together of mystery, mummies, betrayal, and suspense. The author’s background in Egyptology adds credence to the story, setting, and characterization of the novel. There are mentions throughout of cultural items of the time, while the title of the novel is based on an ancient Egyptian text – “and a crocodile waiteth on the sandbank.”

The second novel in the series features a standalone story but is, once again, set in Egypt. Following the events of the preceding novel the titular character and her husband remain in England with a particular urge to return to their mutually adored Egypt. A stroke of good fortune strikes the couple as Lady Baskerville, certain that her husband died under suspicious circumstances, enlists them to travel to Egypt to complete the excavation started by her late husband. It is up to the Emerson to solve the mystery as tales of the supposed curse have spread through Egypt and no others dare enter the tomb in Luxor. The series would go on to chronicle the trials and tribulations of Amelia Peabody and her family: her husband, Emerson, and their son, Ramses.

While the Amelia Peabody series is her most famous and beloved work, Peters made a substantial contribution to literature. Her bibliography contains adventure, romance, history, elements of the supernatural, strong women, and other such timeless motifs. She was famed for the speed with which she wrote. This should come as no surprise as the Amelia Peabody series alone contains 19 novels. She once recounted how, upon the publication of her 50th book, she began losing count of her total number of novels

Her second series, The Vicky Bliss Mysteries, centers on the titular character of Vicky Bliss, an art history professor, who finds herself entangled in the world of international crime and subterfuge. The series is set in America, Germany, and Sweden, among other locales. It contains six official releases.

Her third and final series, Jacqueline Kirby, is a tale of a rather improvised detective. Her third and final series, Jacqueline Kirby, is a tale of a rather impromptu detective. The first novel in the series, Seventh Sinner, begins in Rome where Jacqueline Kirby is tasked with solving the mystery of the body lying in the Temple of Mithra. Though it was planned as a single novel, the portrayal of the titular Jacqueline generated such fanfare that Peters was almost forced to embark on yet another popular series, probably as a way to keep her fans drooling over her work.

While her work was adored and cherished the world over, none of her novels received film or television treatments. The author herself stated that, “In order to make a film or put on a public, for profit, theatrical performance based on the books, you must first obtain the rights from me.”

That has not, however, stopped fans from speculating on the would-be casting of the Amelia Peabody series.

Georgetown Books

Ammie, Come Home(1968) 
Shattered Silk(1986) 
Stitches in Time(1995) 

Jacqueline Kirby Books

The Seventh Sinner(1972) 
The Murders of Richard III(1974) 
Die for Love(1984) 
Naked Once More(1989) 

Vicky Bliss Books

Borrower of the Night(1973) 
Street of the Five Moons(1978) 
Silhouette in Scarlet(1983) 
Trojan Gold(1987) 
Night Train to Memphis(1994) 
Laughter of the Dead Kings(2008) 

Amelia Peabody Books

Crocodile on the Sandbank(1975) 
The Curse of the Pharaohs(1981) 
The Mummy Case(1985) 
Lion in the Valley(1986) 
The Deeds of the Disturber(1988) 
The Last Camel Died at Noon(1991) 
The Snake, The Crocodile and the Dog(1992) 
The Hippopotamus Pool(1996) 
Seeing a Large Cat(1997) 
The Ape Who Guards the Balance(1998) 
The Falcon at the Portal(1999) 
He Shall Thunder in the Sky(2000) 
Lord of the Silent(2001) 
The Golden One(2002) 
Children of the Storm(2003) 
Guardian of the Horizon(2003) 
The Serpent on the Crown(2005) 
Tomb of the Golden Bird(2006) 
A River in the Sky(2010) 
The Painted Queen(2017) 

Someone In The House Books

Someone in the House(1981) 
Black Rainbow(1982) 

Standalone Novels

The Master of Blacktower(1966) 
Sons of the Wolf(1967) 
The Jackal’s Head(1968) 
Prince of Darkness(1969) 
The Camelot Caper(1969) 
The Dark on the Other Side(1970) 
The Dead Sea Ciper(1970) 
The Crying Child(1971) 
The Night of Four Hundred Rabbits(1971) 
House of Many Shadows(1974) 
The Sea King’s Daughter(1975) 
Patriot’s Dream(1976) 
The Legend in Green Velvet(1976) 
Wings of the Falcon(1977) 
Devil May Care(1977) 
Wait for What Will Come(1978) 
The Walker in Shadows(1979) 
Summer of the Dragon(1979) 
The Wizard’s Daughter(1980) 
The Love Talker(1980) 
The Copenhagen Connection(1982) 
Here I Stay(1983) 
The Grey Beginning(1984) 
Be Buried in the Rain(1985) 
Search the Shadows(1987) 
Smoke and Mirrors(1989) 
Into the Darkness(1990) 
Vanish with the Rose(1992) 
Houses of Stone(1993) 
The Dancing Floor(1997) 
Other Worlds(1998) 

Amelia Peabody Non-Fiction Books

Amelia Peabody’s Egypt: A Compendium(2003)

Non-Fiction Books

Temples, Tombs & Hieroglyphs(1964) 
Red Land, Black Land(1966)
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