Amelia Peabody’s Egypt: a Compendium
Ed. Elizabeth Peters, Constable & Robinson, £19.99
This is a book that is both charming and dangerous. Elizabeth Peters might be described as an American version of Agatha Christie, and her equivalent of Hercule Poirot is Amelia Peabody, a Victorian feminist/archaeologist/ detective, the chronicles of whose doings are extremely popular in America.
This compendium provides a background to the novels. Elizabeth Peters is a pseudonym of Barbara Mertz, who does in fact have a PhD in Egyptology. The book is very well done, printed on antique yellowy paper and illustrated with woodcuts and antique photographs, most, if not all of which, are genuine. However, the book mixes fact and fiction through-out, in a way that could be extremely dangerous. For the dedicated Egyptologist, there is some brilliantly witty dressing up of the facts. In the list of persons, for instance, I found one ‘Renfrew’, who is described as ‘London collector and dealer in antiquities’ – no connection, one assumes, with the eminent Cambridge Professor and scourge of dealers and collectors. But I wonder how long it will be before some of the fictional flourishes become presented as facts


This article is an extract from the full article published in World Archaeology Issue 5. Click here to subscribe

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