I bought "Crocodile on the Sandbank" almost on a whim after a friend recommended it to me. I then promptly left it to gather dust on my bookshelf for six months, before picking it up again recently to finally sit down and read it.
I am quite furious with myself for those six months I spent ignoring it. "Crocodile on the Sandbank" is a wonderful story, filled with vibrant, likable characters. Amelia Peabody, the protagonist, is strong-minded, outspoken, and something of a Victorian superheroine: she rescues forlorn waifs from the streets of Rome, she speaks four languages, and she can archeologise just as well as any man! Surprisingly, the presence of a character so obviously written to be liked by readers does not become tiresome, largely, I suspect, because Amelia isn't just talk: she is tremendously loyal to her friends, as well as being brave, compassionate, and genuinely unafraid to put herself in danger to help those in need.
Admittedly the novel is a little too "nice" and inoffensive: the heroes are as clearly-defined as if they were wearing white hats throughout, and the villains practically twirl black moustaches in the most dastardly manner imaginable. I found myself at certain points in the novel raising a cynical eyebrow at the characters' (especially Amelia's) attitude to premarital sex. However, I admit that this can be put down both to a need to keep the story moving forward (I believe I would have killed myself in despair had every character Evelyn encountered reached for his or her smelling salts upon the discovery that she was not a virgin), as well as the fact that it is made quite clear from the start that Amelia is a little unusual for a Victorian lady.
If I have one major complaint with the novel as a whole, it's that the mystery wasn't quite mysterious enough for my liking, taking a backseat to the development of the relationships between the characters. While character development (obviously!) is no bad thing, I prefer mysteries to focus on the mystery at hand.
Actually, I lie; I have one final complaint. I'm not sure whether Peters or the publisher is to blame, but I disliked the insertion of a mini "biography" of Amelia at the beginning of the book, mainly because it gave away a key plot development! Admittedly this particular development hardly required a Mensa-level of intelligence to predict, but I still felt a little put out.
That being said, it is a wonderful first book in a series, and I look forward to reading its many sequels. Highly recommended to fans of Egypt, mysteries, archeology, the Victorians, or just good, old-fashioned adventure stories!