I'd like to present to you one of my selected few favourite authors: Barbara Louise Gross Mertz, aka "Elizabeth Peters", aka "Barbara Michaels", aka "Barbara Mertz". She's a studied Egyptologist, but also - or mostly - successful author of various series of crime/thriller mysteries with just an occasional touch of the supernatural to keep things interesting. I deeply admire her - not because I owe hours of pleasant and sometimes educational entertainment to her (which is certainly the case), but because she achieved what I endeavour to achieve as well: to combine the love of history and writing in a way that's approachable for other people.
"Crocodile on the Sandbank" is my all-time favourite and the first book from Peter's series "Amelia Peabody's Murder Mysteries". The reason I love that book so much is simple: the characters are funny, carefully drawn masterpieces (especially Amelia and Emerson), the setting is exotic and the romance vibrant, but in an unostentatious way.
The story: Witty and rather eccentric spinster Amelia Peabody wants to travel the world after her father's death, a rather complicated endeavor in the late 19th century. In Rome Amelia saves young Evelyn Forbes - an heiress cast from her family after she eloped with an Italian scoundrel who then broke her heart - and takes the girl on as her companion on her travels to Egypt. In Kairo they meet the Emerson brothers: charming young Walter (who, of course, falls in love with Evelyn) and irascible, antiquities-crazy excavator Radcliffe. Amelia and Radcliffe (who is usually only called by his surname) instantly loath each other, both being overbearing personalities used to getting their will.
Later on they meet again, when Amelia and Evelyn stop on their journey down the Nile to visit the ancient city Amarna, where the men are currently working. The older Emerson has fallen ill and Amelia (being a very good-natured woman under her rough exterior) decides to stay with them to help. A battle of wills ensues between her and Emerson when she discovers her own love for archaeology and strange things start to happen: A battered old mummy is stolen from its grave and returns during nights - scaring the Egyptian workers - and one of Evelyn's distant relatives - handsome Lucas - shows up at the site, disturbing her frail bond with Walter Emerson... and among all that tussle and tension Emerson and Amelia have to ask themselves whether their first impressions of each other might not need correcting.
Well, as the series continues, you can probably guess what happens in the end ;) Some of the other books are just as good (like "The Last Camel Died at Noon" or "Lion in the Valley"), some aren't - but at least they're still readable. However, as there are other review-worthy books by Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels/ etc., this presentation will go on soon! In the meantime try and enjoy "Crocodile on the Sandbank" - it's really worth it!