Book Reviews

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With the October 2004 review, we began rating the books on the basis of one to four trowels; 
one trowel= don’t bother, to four trowels= run right out to your local book store and buy the hard cover!

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Barbara Mertz (Elizabeth Peters) by Bill Gresens

Reviewed on: September 1, 2013

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

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 Painted Queen (Reviewed September 1, 2017)

The Serpent on the Crown (Reviewed October 2005)

Twenty Years in the Trenches: Archaeology in Fiction

William Gresens, longtime MVAC supporter and volunteer, has been writing reviews of archaeological fiction as MVAC’s book reviewer for twenty years.  In this interview Bill shares how he got started writing reviews for MVAC, how the genre has changed, highlights, and his thoughts looking forward. 

Bill Gresen’s Book Review 20th Anniversary

While Bill's reviews go back 20 years now, his relationship with MVAC goes back more than twice that long! The reviews capture some of the things we enjoy most about Bill-- he's perceptive, methodical, a clear thinker, and a whole lot of fun! We look forward to this relationship--and Bill's reviews!--continuing for many years to come.

The March 2021 review marks the 20th anniversary of reviews of archaeological fiction.  It has been my pleasure and great fun to while away the hours reading these books—for the most part, at least—and writing the reviews!  My thanks to MVAC allowing me to prattle on and I look forward to the years ahead.

Bill Gresens