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Fictional Archaeology from Elizabeth Peters

Beginning in 1973, the archaeologist Barbara Mertz, at the time and still a world-class romantic mystery writer known as both Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels, published the first adventures of Victorian spinster Amelia Peabody and her crotchety husband, archaeologist Radcliffe Emerson.

Amelia Peabody Thrillers
Amelia Peabody Thrillers (Elizabeth Peters)

Crocodile on the Sandbank
The first of the Amelia Peabody books introduces our heroine, a 32-year old spinster living in England in 1885, whose poky old father dies and leaves her a fortune. Off to travel ancient Egypt she goes, where she meets a cranky archaeologist named Emerson who is excavating at Amarna, the lucky dog. First published in 1973.

Curse of the Pharaohs
Amelia and Radcliffe (er um, Peabody and Emerson) embark on their last childfree adventure (Ramses is too young to take with them this season), returning to Egypt to come to the aid of the irritating Lady Baskerville, whose husband has apparently died of an Egyptian curse. The red-headed gift to the Daily Yell, Kevin O'Connell, makes his first appearance here.

The Mummy Case
At last, the young Ramses, scion of the Emerson family, gets to come along to Egypt; and the adventure is a good one, dealing with the illegal antiquities market, pyramids, murder, and the first appearance of the mysterious Master Criminal, and the cat Bastet.

Lion in the Valley
Ah, that's what comes of taking your children on wild rides; they get abducted by Master Criminals! Eight-year-old Ramses proves more than adequate to the challenge as his mother and father search for him frantically among the backdrop of the Black Pyramid at Dahshoor.

Deeds of the Disturber
Proving that adventure follows Peabody and Emerson whether they leave England or not, The Deeds of the Disturber takes place in and around the British Museum, wherein a (rather ludicrous) cult has grown up around the displays. Ramses does battle with E Wallis Budge on theory; Miss Minton makes an appearance; and Gargery the butler saves the day.

The Last Camel Died at Noon
The Last Camel Died at Noon is the Peabody adventure which owes the most to Rider Haggard. Peabody, Emerson, and Ramses go to the Sudan in search of the lost adventurer Willoughby Forth, and Ramses discovers his own She Who Must Be Obeyed--the lovely Nefret.

The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog
There's nothing more irritating than a teenage know-it-all boy; unless it's his teenage know-it-all sister-surrogate. Wisely, Peabody and Emerson return to Amarna without them, where old pal Cyrus Vandergelt seems to be in trouble and Emerson loses his memory. Letters from Ramses make certain we don't forget him.

The Hippopotamus Pool
Peabody and Emerson, Ramses and Nefret, and even Emerson's brother Walter and his wife Evelyn, all come along for the ride in this 8th adventure, this time to Thebes, looking for the tomb of Tetisheri. Abdullah the foreman's grandson David Todros joins the cast; and finally, after missing in action for several novels, the Master Criminal returns.

Seeing a Large Cat
It's now 1903, and the three teenagers--Ramses, Nefret, and David--begin to take active roles in the plot, and with them a darker and more romantic strain is added to this and subsequent novels. The humor and Egyptological references are still there, but the plots (here via the excerpts from Manuscript H) include political intrigue and closer attention to conditions in Egypt.

The Ape Who Guards the Balance
By the time of The Ape Who Guards the Balance, 1907, Ramses, David and Nefret have a far greater understanding of the political and social situation in Egypt than do Peabody and Emerson. Excavations at the tomb of Seti I have only a portion of the plot, which includes the recovery of a mint-condition Book of the Dead and another appearance by Howard Carter.

Falcon at the Portal
The darkest of the Peabody-Emerson family novels, The Falcon at the Portal takes place in 1911, and the political intrigue of Cairo is echoed by the romantic tension between Ramses and Nefret. David is accused of selling looted artifacts, and that's really only the surface of the problems, which include nationalism, racial tensions, Victorian sensibilities, and the black market for antiquities.

He Shall Thunder in the Sky
The year is 1914 and World War I has begun, and the younger Emersons are hip-deep in the struggles between the nationalist Egyptian movement and the British expatriate community. An old mystery of just who the Master Criminal is and why he keeps hanging around becomes a focus of the novel.

Lord of the Silent
By 1915, the war is on-going and the Emersons fully intend to excavate in Egypt; this time trying to keep Ramses out of the hands of the War Office. Political intrigues continue, of course, Miss Minton reappears with a twist; and the Master Criminal joins the family in the drawing room.

The Golden One
It's 1917, World War I grinds on, and the Emersons are tussling with their clueless friend Cyrus Vandergelt over who gets to excavate which site at Luxor, when despite his best efforts and those of his family, Ramses is dragged into an espionage subplot.

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