Farewell, Amelia

Barbara Mertz, who wrote as Elizabeth Peters, has died at the age of 85. She wrote under several pseudonyms, including Barbara Michaels, but for me and a host of other readers the crown of her career was the Amelia Peabody series.

Normally, I’d go on to explain who and what Amelia was, but I find it hard to believe there’s anyone who reads who HASN’T read Crocodile on the Sandbank, The Deeds of the Disturber, and the over twenty (or is it thirty?) other titles in this series.

Years ago I was trapped at a dinner party with a Republican, male, NRA-loving wine snob. We had no common ground until he said hesitantly, “I’ve just read the greatest book, all about this woman who’s an archeologist in Egypt…” and we were off.

Everyone loved Amelia Peabody, everyone followed her adventures in Egypt as she pursued the Master Criminal(s), excavated tombs, collected an ever-expanding character list of relatives, enemies, and hangers-on, all while upholding her opinions on the care of donkeys, the proper way to sew on a button, and the rights of women. We all saw her so clearly (this genius creation of Barbara Mertz!): short, bosomy, indomitable even when locked in a pyramid with the air running out, and always accompanied by her trusty parasol.

It’s said Ms. Mertz put a lot of herself into Amelia. God, I hope so, because I wanted Amelia to be real. I’m sure I’m not the only fan who felt this way.

So, thank you, Barbara Mertz for creating Amelia, Emerson, and Ramses. You gave me and all your readers an enormous amount of pleasure. You all will be missed.

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Mary Holland

Mary Holland writes alternative-world fantasy for grown-ups. Her books include Matcher Rules, The Bone Road, and The Dog of Pel. She lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains with three cats and an ever-changing assortment of wildlife.

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