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Barbara Mertz (Elizabeth Peters) (September 29, 1927—August 8, 2013) 

By: Bill Gresens

It is with great sadness that the literary world learned that Barbara Mertz, perhaps better known by her pen names Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels, passed away on August 8, 2013, at the age of 85.  She earned a Ph.D. in Egyptology from the University of Chicago in 1952, when it was rare for a woman to pursue such careers.  Her expertise was much in evidence in the nineteen volumes of the greatly-beloved Amelia Peabody mystery series.  The series followed the adventures of this intrepid adventuress during the closing decades of 19th century and into the first decades of 20th century Egypt.  The series was unfailingly witty, erudite and just plain fun.  Perhaps Washington Post writer Sarah Booth Conroy best summed up the magic of her fiction when she observed that Mertz’s fiction was “the literary equivalent of multiple gin-and-tonics.”  They were to be read “…in times of self-indulgence, physical pain or mental anguish because they come with the guarantee that the evil will be punished, the good will be rewarded, pleasingly plump women will seduce brilliant men with bulging muscles and all will be set right in the world.”1

She also wrote more than two dozen mystery/romance novels under the pseudonym Barbara Michaels, six novels in the Vicky Bliss, art historian series, as Elizabeth Peters, and several scholarly works under her own name.

She will be greatly missed, and to help remind us of the great fun it was to read the latest Peabody adventure, we’ve posted links to earlier reviews from the series.,

1 From the Washington Post obituary of Barbara Mertz (8/11/13).

Click on the titles below for my reviews of some of her books. 

Amelia Peabody's Egypt: A Compendium (Reviewed April 2004)

A River in the Sky (Reviewed September 2010)

Crocodile on the Sandbank (Reviewed January 2004)

Guardian of the Horizon (Reviewed May 2004)

The Jackal's Head (Reviewed October 2007)

The Serpent on the Crown (Reviewed October 2005)

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*MVAC Educational Programs are supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in these programs do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
*This project was supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation.  Opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Foundation.