Originally Posted by fantasyfan
I loved this book--mainly because I fell in love with Amelia Peabody! She's one of those characters that make a book enjoyable. I think a really good mystery depends as much on having that kind of a character as in having an interesting plot.
You know, of course, that Amelia Peabody is based on a real person? She's very much inspired by the Victorian novelist and Egyptologist Amelia B. Edwards (1831-1892), who wrote a book of her travels in Egypt called "A Thousand Miles Up to Nile" which became a massive bestseller. (You can find it in the MR Library here - I thoroughly recommend reading it). Many details of the story are taken directly from "A Thousand Miles Up the Nile" - eg both the real and fictional Amelias (Ameliae?) travel in a Dahabeeya called the "Philae"; both are given the nickname "the lady doctor" by the locals (to be strictly accurate, in the real Amelia's case it was her companion who was given the nickname), and much more.
Similarly, Emerson is very much inspired by the British archeologist Sir Flinders Petrie, some of whose methods are directly described in passages in "Crocodile on the Sandbank" (such as preserving a delicate painting by using his finger to cover it with a preservative.) Like Emerson, Petrie had a reputation for being grumpy, shouting at people, and having no patience with people he considered to be fools.
I should add that it was reading this series that inspired me first to visit Egypt (which is probably my favourite place on Earth) and secondly to learn more, read about, and create a nice eBook edition of the book of, the real Amelia Edwards - a very formidable lady, by all accounts.