Elizabeth Peters is one of the pseudonyms used by American author Barbara Mertz, born Barbara Gross. Mertz was born in 1927 in Illinois and has a long-standing appreciation for archaeology and Ancient Egypt in particular, which is consistently featured within her many mystery novels, and this article will go through all Elizabeth Peters books in order.
In 1947, Mertz received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago and her master’s degree in 1950. In the early 1950s, she pursued a Ph.D. in Egyptology and graduated in 1952, but was unable to find a job due to the lack of opportunities available to women in academia.
She had 2 children with her husband of 19 years, Elizabeth and Peter, which is where she got the inspiration for the pseudonym Elizabeth Peters.
Under this pseudonym, she has written 3 different mystery series, which all follow female protagonists as they solve historical crimes or mysteries relating to artifacts or the ancient world.
Her most popular series follows an archaeologist, Amelia Peabody, as she solves different crimes with her husband and child. These books are more light-hearted than the crime thrillers that are sometimes categorized with this series. The Amelia Peabody books are fun and gentle, following the small, endearing family as they solve mysteries together.
While this series is fun and jam-packed with mystery, it is predominantly grounded in ancient fact and interpolates much of Mertz’s archaeological knowledge.
Under Elizabeth Peters, she also wrote the Vicky Bliss series, which hones in on an art historian who solves art theft mysteries and other similar cases. This protagonist has a job at the Munich National Museum and has an in-depth knowledge of medieval Europe. Although this is a mystery series, these books frequently feature historical facts, so they’re a brilliant read if you’re looking for something fun, engaging, and educational.
The Jaqueline Kirby books are the last ones in Elizabeth Peters’s repertoire. It follows an ex-librarian who solves mysterious crimes and tackles interesting cases.
Although these are the only series published under Elizabeth Peters, this article will go into detail about all of Barbara Mertz’s work, under all names, so you can explore everything she has to offer across different genres.
If you have read some of the work released under Elizabeth Peters, you may enjoy what Mertz has written using the name Barbara Michaels. These books are more gripping and fast-paced but maintain historical intrigue. She has written gothic and supernatural thrillers which include the Someone in the House series, the Georgetown trilogy, and numerous standalone novels.
Additionally, Mertz has published several non-fiction archeology books using her real name, which are brilliant follow-up books if her thrillers or mysteries sparked an interest in archaeology or history.
She wrote multiple books from different series at the same time, so be sure not to read her repertoire in publication order. Instead, here is an in-depth list of all books in chronological order, divided by publication name.
Elizabeth Peters is the most common name associated with this author and there’s a reason why! Her Peabody series is world-renowned and her fun, action-packed mysteries provide brilliant reads for all readers, regardless of age. While her Vicky Bliss and Jaqueline Kirby books are also very highly rated, the Amelia Peabody series is the most famous and the most well-read, so this article will focus predominantly on this series, providing brief book descriptions for each novel.
It is said that the character of Amelia Peabody was constructed from an amalgamation of different female figures, such as Hilda Petrie and Amelia Edwards. However, many beady-eyed fans have noted that Amelia Peabody’s experience and lifestyle closely parallel that of Emma Andrews, who was an American Egyptologist who traveled the world and journeyed through Egypt, making notes and keeping thorough journals that articulated her time there.
As an Egyptologist herself, Barbara Mertz would have known about or maybe even studied Emma Andrews. Andrews was an advocate for women’s education, which was close to Mertz’s heart, so using her as inspiration for her most famous protagonist seems likely.
All of Elizabeth Peters Books in Order
Crocodile on the Sandbank (1975)
This book introduces the iconic character of Amelia Peabody. She soon teams up with a young woman called Evelyn, who was abandoned by her lover. They journey together up the Nile to the archaeological site run by the Emerson brothers.
Crocodile on the Sandback really kicks off when strange kidnappings and suspicious ‘accidents’ happen around Evelyn.
The Curse of the Pharaohs (1981)
After Sir Henry Baskerville dies shortly after finding what appears to be a completely undisturbed royal tomb, his wife calls upon Radcliffe Emerson and his wife Amelia to continue the excavation.
The Curse of the Pharaohs follows as Amelia and Radcliffe uncover the suspicious circumstances that led to Sir Henry’s death.
The Mummy Case (1985)
With a cursed reputation, Radcliffe struggles to find work but is eventually given the opportunity to dig at the pyramids of Mazghuna, which turn out to be more like mounds of piled-up dirt than pyramids.
The Mummy Case follows a murder mystery case in Cairo, which involves Amelia and Radcliffe when a suspect appears in Mazghuna.
The Lion in the Valley (1986)
Amelia, Emerson, and their son are granted the opportunity to dig in a burial chamber in Dahshur, a site that holds huge amounts of potential.
The Lion in the Valley intensifies as misfortunes, curses, and the abduction of their child lead Amelia to her enemy, the Master Criminal.
The Deeds of the Disturber (1988)
Now in London, Amelia finds herself captivated by the British Museum, but not by the interesting exhibits. Amelia’s attention is caught by the strange murder of a night watchman who is found dead in the Mummy room.
The Deeds of the Disturber tackles supernaturalism, horror, and one big murder mystery that, if Amelia isn’t careful, may lead to another.
The Last Camel Died at Noon (1991)
Driven to Sudan under the promise of an interesting new archaeological site, Amelia and Radcliffe soon find themselves invested in a completely different mystery – the search for a missing African explorer and his young wife.
The Last Camel Died at Noon takes the two beloved characters through the harsh African desert and into captivity as they are taken prisoner in a lost city.
The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog (1992)
During their search for Nefertiti’s tomb, Amelia and Radcliffe decide to take some time to relax on what becomes a second honeymoon. But what they don’t know is that danger lies just around the corner.
The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog centers around secrecy, as Amelia’s own secrets become her greatest danger.
The Hippopotamus Pool (1996)
When a stranger offers to guide Amelia and Radcliffe to a lost Egyptian queen’s tomb, the two can’t help themselves and follow with no hesitation. But when their guide mysteriously disappears, they’re left to their own devices.
The Hippopotamus Pool is a story of ancient curses, kidnappings, murder, and theft.
Seeing a Large Cat (1997)
It’s 1903, and Amelia and Radcliffe are now in Cairo. Filled with scandal, spiritualism, threats, dreams, and unknown enemies, Seeing a Large Cat may be Peters’ most innovative novel yet.
The Ape Who Guards the Balance (1998)
Delving further into antiquity, The Ape Who Guards the Balance follows as Amelia and Radcliffe’s excavations become more and more dull. As a result of Radcliffe’s behavior, the two have been left with the most boring tombs and cannot seem to find anything notable.
That is until an untouched papyrus of the famous Book of the Dead falls into their family’s hands and they soon get caught up in a spiral of magical spells, chants, and prayers that were used to repel evil in the ancient world.
The Falcon at the Portal (1999)
The Falcon at the Portal follows as Amelia is faced with her most personal dilemma yet. When her niece’s husband is accused of fraud, Amelia must decide whether or not he’s guilty, or just the bait for a higher boss.
As the mystery gets closer and closer to the center of the family, Amelia must try and solve the case before it throws her family into turmoil.
He Shall Thunder in the Sky (2000)
It’s now 1914 and the conflict that is causing chaos in Europe starts to make its way to Northern Africa. In Cairo for another dig, Amelia and Radcliffe must face the implications of the Turkish-German attack on the Suez Canal.
He Shall Thunder in the Sky is much more politically motivated and delves deeper into the characters and their philosophies.
Lord of the Silent (2001)
Cairo has now become an army camp, bustling with tomb robbers and enemies who are determined to disturb ancient sites.
Lord of the Silent follows Amelia as she escapes the chaos in Cairo for a quiet dig in Luxor. But when she finds a corpse in an ancient tomb, she edges closer to a new important discovery, but closer to perilous danger too.
The Golden One (2002)
Risking their lives journeying across war-torn Europe, the Emersons have Egypt in their sights once more, with the hope of an undisturbed new excavation to take them away from European tragedy.
The Golden One sees Amelia once again find a freshly dead body in a tomb, drawing them closer to the enemy who will not stop until they’ve given up their archaeological work. As secrets are revealed, Amelia and Radcliffe realize that evil is not as far away as they thought.
Children of the Storm (2003)
After World War I finishes, Amelia and Radcliffe hope for more Egyptian excavations that should no longer be impacted by the great European conflict.
Children of the Storm hones in on the family’s private life as Amelia and Radcliffe become proud grandparents. But this peace is soon disrupted by unearthed past dangers which will target the future of Amelia’s family.
Guardian of the Horizon (2004)
Amelia and Radcliffe head back to England after their banishment from the Valley of the Kings. This book throws us back in time to the events of 1907 and 1908, which sees Ramses, Amelia and Radcliffe’s son, grow more and more in love with Nefret, who would become his wife.
Guardian of the Horizon is a personal recount which allows readers to delve further into their favorite characters.
The Serpent on the Crown (2005)
Set in 1921, the family is back in Egypt excavating. But when news of a mysterious death reaches them, they are forced to begin detective work.
The Serpent on the Crown merges the ancient world with modern mystery.
Tomb of the Golden Bird (2006)
Tomb of the Golden Bird follows as Amelia tries to get her hands on the rights to find Tutankhamon’s tomb, which is rumored to be in the Valley of the Kings.
- A River in the Sky (2010)
Amelia redirects her attention to the Middle East, as the Ottoman Empire crumbles. A River in the Sky takes us across Jerusalem, through thick political tension and mounds of secrecy.
The Painted Queen (2017)
This book was published posthumously and was finished and edited by Joan Hess, another American mystery writer.
The Painted Queen is set in 1912 and follows as Amelia uncovers the truth behind a personal and dangerous murder mystery.
Amelia Peabody’s Egypt: A Compendium was released in 2003 as an add-on novel to the classic series, providing information and context to the settings, characters, and values within the mystery novels. It provides a detailed account of 1920s Egypt and won the 2003 Agatha Award for the ‘Best Non-Fiction’ book. It was also a nominee for the Edgar Award in 2004 under the ‘Best Critical/Biographical Work’ category.
This beautiful medieval specialist is at the center of each of these fascinating novels. In tune with Peters’ other works, the Vicky Bliss series also hones in on history, but in a very different way. These stories are adventurous and legends often sit at their core and feminist themes run throughout as Vicky is frequently surrounded by male ‘superiors’. Here’s the series in chronological order:
- Borrower of the Night (1973)
- Street of the Five Moons (1978)
- Silhouette in Scarlet (1983)
- Trojan Gold (1987)
- Night Train to Memphis (1994)
- The Laughter of Dead Kings (2008)
A former librarian is challenged with solving a string of mysteries that will take her down dangerous paths and force her to embark on mysterious adventures. Here’s the series in chronological order:
- The Seventh Sinner (1972)
- The Murders of Richard III (1974)
- Die for Love (1984)
- Naked Once More (1989)
These are a mixture of light-hearted mysteries, crime thrillers, historical mysteries, and suspenseful mysteries, and make up some of Peters’ earliest work. These are often overlooked but contain some brilliant stories if you’re done with the Peabody series. Here they are in publication order:
- The Jackal’s Head (1968)
- The Camelot Caper (1969)
- The Dead Sea Cipher (1970)
- The Night of Four Hundred Rabbits (also known as Shadows in the Moonlight) (1971)
- The Legend in Green Velvet (also known as Ghost in Green Velvet) (1976)
- Devil May Care (1977)
- Summer of the Dragon (1979)
- The Love Talker (1980)
- The Copenhagen Connection (1982)
That is the comprehensive selection of books available by Elizabeth Peters. These are some of the best-rated books in Mertz’s repertoire and the Amelia Peabody series is particularly noteworthy as an award-winning and best-selling series. These books have provided enjoyment and entertainment to many readers of all ages and maintain a fantastic balance between historical fact, engaging mystery, and endearing characterization.
Under this name, Mertz wrote a plethora of gothic and supernatural thrillers, designed to create chilling atmospheres and eerie tension. These are very different from the mystery series written under Elizabeth Peters but are perfect for those who are looking for a little more intensity.
Possessed protagonists, ancestral evils, forgotten mysteries, dangerous killers, and supernatural powers are just a few of the things you can expect within the pages of this series. These books are intense, varied, and complex, with a very different vibe from the light-hearted mysteries the author is famous for. The Georgetown trilogy will send shivers down your spine and are perfect for any Elizabeth Peters fans seeking a little more intensity. Here is the series in chronological order:
- Ammie, Come Home (1968)
- Shattered Silk (1986)
- Stitches in Time (1995)
Standalone Novels (In Publication Order)
These standalone novels vary in subject matter and theme but all maintain a chilling plot. They contain fascinating mysteries which will have you guessing until the very end and the eerie subplots create a frightening atmosphere, unlike the rest of her work. Here they are in publication order:
- Witch (1973)
- House of Many Shadows (1974)
- Be Buried in the Rain (1985)
- Into the Darkness (1990)
- Vanish with the Rose (1992)
- Houses of Stone (1993)
- The Dancing Floor (1997)
Under her original name, Mertz wrote a few non-fiction works centered around history and archaeology, they are as follows:
- Temples, Tombs & Hieroglyphs: A Popular History of Ancient Egypt (1964)
- Red Land, Black Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt (1967)
- Two Thousand Years in Rome (1968) (published with Richard Mertz)
These are informative and intriguing reads, perfect for anyone interested in ancient history. They provide a new perspective on these ages and even highlight what life would be like for those living in these eras.
Her first novel to receive an award nomination was Trojan Gold, the 4th book in the Vicky Bliss series, which was nominated for the 1988 Anthony Award. In 1989, only 1 year on, Naked Once More, the final book in her Jaqueline Kirby series, was nominated for the same award in the ‘Best Novel’ category.
From then on, many of Mertz’s books were nominated for the Agatha Award for ‘Best Novel’, including The Last Camel Died at Noon (Amelia Peabody #6), The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog (Amelia Peabody #7), The Ape Who Guards the Balance (Amelia Peabody #10), and He Shall Thunder in the Sky (Amelia Peabody #12), which was also nominated for the Anthony Award ‘Best Novel’.
Barbara Mertz has received a multitude of different awards, predominantly under the pseudonym Elizabeth Peters. The books written under this name were undoubtedly the most popular and successful, so if you’re looking to read any of the work noted in this article, read something written under Elizabeth Peters.
Barbara Mertz (also known as Barbara Michaels and Elizabeth Peters) has written a plethora of novels spanning numerous genres. She was a multifaceted author with heaps of information to share.
If you’re interested in history but don’t want to read textbooks or boring non-fiction books, the Elizabeth Peters novels are perfect for you. By reading a compelling story, you’ll unknowingly learn a huge amount about medieval or ancient history. Mertz’s writing is the best way to have fun while learning.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many pseudonyms did Elizabeth Peters use?
Elizabeth Peters is one of the pseudonyms used by Barbara Mertz. She published work under her real name and two other pseudonyms, Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels. So, 3 names in total were used to publish her work.
Are the Amelia Peabody books worth reading?
It depends on what you’re interested in reading, but there’s a reason why the Amelia Peabody books are so widely-read and have received so many good reviews. The work is fun, light-hearted, and mysterious and may also teach you a thing or two about ancient history.
What genre does Barbara Mertz write in?
Light-hearted mystery is what you can expect from the books written under Elizabeth Peters. However, as a broader author, Barbara Mertz writes suspense, gothic, mystery, and non-fiction books, most of which relate to history and/or archaeology.
Lilian Jackson Braun and Mariah Fredericks are authors who use a similar genre and writing style.
Who solves crimes with Amelia Peabody?
Her husband, Egyptologist, Radcliffe Emerson, and their child. They solve mysteries as a small family which adds to the endearing and wholesome value of these books.