Mary says to me, "if you really want to understand me, you have to read this book." So, willing to submit myself to a sappy romantic mystery in order to gain any insight into the persona of my wife, I read the book. I was immediately pleased with the author. Not just because she told the story in the first person (from Amelia Peabody's perspective) so I could immediately evaluate the credibility and bias of my narrator, but also because of the generally mature way she treats the reader. She doesn't tell us what qualities certain characters have (brave, pushy, naive,...), rather she describes their actions and we draw our own conclusions. She expects the reader to come to certain conclusion and make various evaluations of the plot yet she refuses to spell anything out to the reader the way the Hardy Boys might. So if you need to be told who the main suspects are what their motivations could be, better go back to the Alexander Brown.
The story starts out like a very classic novel. A middle aged spinster sets out on an archeological tour and encounters a beautiful young lady, Evelyn, with a tragic story. You can immediately sense that Elizabeth Peters is going to take some original twists to the classic plot the minute Amelia opens her mouth in response to Evelyn's tragic affair. Evelyn continues to follow a very classic story tale romance, and a fairly interesting mystery develops with a Mummy and an archeological dig. I became briefly annoyed with the book when I reached a point where it was incredibly obvious who was behind the Mummy and the book was only 3/4 done. Then I realized that the real story being told was not the mystery--although it was a convoluted yet believable mystery that I wished I had thought out more fully, because when the details were revealed I felt like I should have figured them out. In fact, while Amelia is trying so hard to tell everyone else's story, she can't help but tell her own which is in fact more interesting and original than the other side stories.
When I finished reading, I asked Mary who she thought the "Crocodile on the Sandbank" was. The title comes from a typical love poem mentioned in the book but given only scant importance. Mary had never considered the answer to that question despite having read the book three times. I contend that it is an important question seeing how it is in the title and in the latter pages Peters clearly states who she believes the crocodile is. The answer shows how found the author is of taking a classic romantic tale and putting an original slant on it.