📚 Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

Amelia Peabody, Book 1

Reviewed Apr. 2019

Narrator: Barbara Rosenblat
Length: 9 hours 54 minutes
Publisher: Recorded Books⎮2004

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Summary

Set in 1884, this is the first installment in what has become a beloved bestselling series. At thirty-two, strong-willed Amelia Peabody, a self-proclaimed spinster, decides to use her ample inheritance to indulge her passion, Egyptology. On her way to Egypt, Amelia encounters a young woman named Evelyn Barton-Forbes. The two become fast friends and travel on together, encountering mysteries, missing mummies, and Radcliffe Emerson, a dashing and opinionated archaeologist who doesn't need a woman's help -- or so he thinks.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.5 Stars

I'm not crying, you are! Don't mind me, I'll just sit here composing myself after being destroyed by a completely unexpected (and premature?) HEA. I don't normally get like this over mushy stuff and this isn't exactly "mushy", it's just that I became so totally invested in Amelia Peabody, as well as Emerson, Walter, and Evelyn that any little victory of happiness for them has me in a heap on the floor.

I began listening to Crocodile on the Sandbank because I find egyptology and archaeology fascinating. I think I've seen every documentary that exists on the subject of egyptology, but I haven't read that many books pertaining to it. Going into Crocodile on the Sandbank, I thought the Egyptian setting and archaeology premise would be my bread and butter, sustaining me throughout the book. And although that didn't disappoint, it was actually the Peters' characters that proved most interesting.

While listening to Crocodile on the Sandbank, I related to Amelia Peabody hard. First of all, she's hilarious in a dry, sarcastic manner that oddly reminded me of Stephanie Plum, but in a more civilized 19th-century way. Amelia also kind of reminded me of Claire Fraser, in that she seemed at ahead of her time (in Claire's case, she is literally ahead of her time...).

Amelia was clearly written to be an avant-garde protagonist and she nearly pulls it off. Perhaps in the 1970s (when Crocodile on the Sandbank was written), Peabody would have been considered a strong female lead, but in the 21st-century, she doesn't entirely fit the bill. When Emerson enters the story, Amelia "no man is as sensible as me" Peabody slowly morphs into a more traditional 19th-century woman, gradually playing second fiddle to Emerson, personally and professionally. Still, my slight disappointment at this was largely overwhelmed by the hilarious banter between Emerson and Peabody and the fact that they still call each other by their surnames right up to the end of the book. Seriously, that cracks me up.

Overall, I liked Emerson as a character. Sure, he infuriated me to begin with, just as he did Amelia. But he played the role of 19th-century man with a British superiority complex perfectly. Honestly, it was almost hard to stay mad at him because he was being so ridiculously pigheaded that I couldn't help but laugh. And Amelia always put him in his place. But my favorite thing about Emerson was the growth he showed over the course of the book. The effect of Amelia's presence on him was obvious and refreshing. He hadn't done a complete 180 by the end of the book, because that would be unrealistic, but he had mellowed enough to show Amelia's affect on him and that' was adorable.

Minor spoiler: This was the ultimate enemies-to-lovers sub-plot and I am all about that trope! I really didn't see it coming until about 75% into the story. It was that well-developed, almost like a slow burn romance. The last few minutes of the book acted as an epilogue (which gave me all the feels), but also seemed premature, given that 19 more books follow in the series. It makes me wonder if Crocodile on the Sandbank was originally intended to be a standalone.

With all things considered, the mystery was the weaker part of the story for me. It wasn't necessarily a "weak" mystery or plot, just not as strong as the character development (which I was more interested in anyway). I thought the "who" part of the mystery was relatively obvious. It was rather comical when the characters made a big deal of revealing what I had basically known for the last three hours, but there were still some smaller details of it that I hadn't put together (the "how" and "why").

By the 75% mark, I was glued to the story, hanging on every word and fully invested in the characters. That's my biggest take away from Crocodile on the Sandbank. This is a 20 book series- If I'm going to be spending so much time with these characters, I'd better like them and care what happens to them. They are the common denominators between the installments. They are the cornerstone of the series. In Crocodile on the Sandbank, Elizabeth Peters has laid a sturdy foundation for my enjoyment of the rest of the series.

Narration review: As many audiobooks do, Crocodile on the Sandbank opens with an introduction from an unknown reader, setting the scene and telling you what you're about to hear. However, in this case, the introductory reader was not so unknown to me. It was none other than Davina Porter, narrator of the Outlander series. Trust me, after spending literally hundreds of hours listening to her voice, I can recognize it at the drop of a hat. Anyway, I remember thinking that I wish I hadn't heard Davina's voice right before listening to an audiobook narrated by someone else, because that someone else had no hope of comparing to Porter... Boy, was I wrong.

There are two recordings of Crocodile on the Sandbank. I purposefully chose the one narrated by Barbara Rosenblat because I recognized her name from Orange is the New Black (she played Miss Rosa). After exactly one sentence, I knew I was in good hands. Audiobooks narrated by experienced actors are generally amazing anyway, but Rosenblat exceeded my expectations. She is incredible. I haven't even heard the sample of Susan O'Malley's version of Crocodile on the Sandbank, but I'm going to go ahead and recommend Barbara Rosenblat's to you because there's no way anyone could have done it any better.

Update- I just listened to O'Malley's sample and I was totally right. Besides, O'Malley only narrated the first six audiobooks in the series, so you would have to eventually switch over to Rosenblat's narration anyway. You may as well start with her from the beginning. ♣︎

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