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Literature / Amelia Peabody

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A historical mystery series written by Elizabeth Peters.

Spoiler note: While most tropeing involves spoilers to a certain degree, this page as it's currently laid out has major mid- to late-series arc spoilers out in the open! If you hate having your mysteries spoiled, stop reading after the next couple of paragraphs. You have been warned!

Amelia Peabody and her husband Radcliffe Emerson are Happily Married Victorian Egyptologists. They are also Amateur Sleuths. They also have a tendency to consider themselves above the law, in that they don't often bother to call the police while battling criminals, as the Police Are Useless. Amelia, in fact, is generally scornful of cops, ignoring the fact that police must follow rules of evidence she doesn't consider binding on her. She frequently says Scotland Yard would solve more cases if a woman ran it — not talking about getting both male and female perspectives, but about replacing the male way of thinking with the female.


The Amelia Peabody series starts in the Victorian Britain but runs through World War I and into The Roaring '20s, so far. Over this time, she and her husband have founded a Badass Family and Quirky Household, the Emersons, that is the core of a bi-ethnic (English/Egyptian) example of The Clan. In addition to Peabody and Emerson, the Emerson family includes:


Each of these four main characters has an Egyptian nickname, bestowed on them by the locals, a particular interest within Egyptology, and an edge of some kind that makes them a bit super-normal:

  • Amelia is "Sitt Hakim" ("Lady Doctor") (She is also called "Peabody" by her husband; she always calls him "Emerson". If he calls her Amelia, it means he's really angry with her.) Her favorite topic is pyramids. Her edge is the dreams of or from her dead friend Abdullah.

  • Emerson is "Abu Shitaim" ("Father of Curses"). earned by his short temper and talent with Arabic invective. His favorite topics are tombs and temples. His edge is sheer strength and even more endurance.

  • Ramses is "Akhu el-Efreet" ("Brother of Demons") (Of course, "Ramses" is already a nickname; his real name is Walter.) His favorite topic is inscriptions and the study of the ancient Egyptian language. His edge is his extraordinarily sharp hearing and vision. "The Brother of Demons can hear a whisper across the Nile."

  • Nefret is "Nur Misur" ("Light of Egypt"), probably in tribute to her hair and her vibrancy. Her favorite topic is mummies, which chimes well with her medical degree. Her edge is a psychic link with Ramses that lets her know when he is in imminent danger; it also spills out into a general sympathy that lets her tame horses, dogs, and cats, feed sparrows from her hand at a cafe table, and may be another reason for her widespread popularity with the Egyptian poor.

The main characters complicate their investigations for themselves by (1) sometimes competing to see who can solve it first, and (2) almost always keeping information from each other to protect the others from rushing into the danger that they themselves feel must be investigated. As a result, they spend a lot of time rescuing each other.

There are a great many repeating characters, including many historical archeologists. Among the important supporting characters are:

  • Sethos, Seth Emerson, who would be an Evil Uncle if he were actually evil; he is Emerson's bastard half-brother, starts the series as a professional tomb robber, gets a crush on Amelia, who reforms him, and goes on to become a British secret agent, all before he reveals the relationship to Peabody and Emerson, and who has a way of turning up unannounced, to drag in new plot complications.

  • Abdullah ibn Hassan al Wahhab, the foreman on the digs. His son Selim takes over from him eventually. His brother Daoud is a Gentle Giant. His grandson David is taken in by the younger Emersons, becomes a famed illustrator, and marries a niece of theirs. His daughter-in-law Fatima becomes the Emerson's housekeeper. Abdullah's family is the hook on which to hang issues of racism and imperialism, which the Emersons are fiercely against.

The Emersons, both female and male, are also fierce proponents of equal rights for women. Some of the stories touch on the early feminist movement in England, and Amelia and Nefret are always trying to improve the lot of Egyptian women.

The Emersons' career is intertwined in the real history of Egypt and Egyptian archeology. The latest books put them on the outskirts of Carter's discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen.

The Amelia Peabody books, with the dates when they are set, are:

  1. 1884-85, Crocodile on the Sandbank (1975)
  2. 1892-93, Curse of the Pharaohs (1981)
  3. 1894-95, The Mummy Case (1985)
  4. 1895-96, Lion in the Valley (1986)
  5. Summer 1896, Deeds of the Disturber (1988)
  6. 1897-98, The Last Camel Died at Noon (1991)
  7. 1898-99, The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog (1992)
  8. 1899-1900, The Hippopotamus Pool (1996)
  9. 1903-04, Seeing a Large Cat (1997)
  10. 1906-07, Valley of the Kings, The Ape Who Guards the Balance (1998)
  11. 1907-08, Guardian of the Horizon (2004, published out of sequence)
  12. Summer-Fall 1910, A River in the Sky (2010, published out of sequence)
  13. 1911-12, The Falcon at the Portal (1999)
  14. 1912, The Painted Queen (2017, published out of sequence)
  15. 1914-15, He Shall Thunder in the Sky (2000)
  16. 1915-16, Lord of the Silent (2001)
  17. 1916-17, The Golden One (2002)
  18. 1919-20, Children of the Storm (2003)
  19. 1922-23, The Serpent on the Crown (2005)
  20. 1922-23, Tomb of the Golden Bird (2006)

Tropes featured include:

  • Accidental Misnaming: A cab driver calls Ramses "Brother of Curses" in He Shall Thunder in the Sky.
  • Action Girl: Amelia and Nefret, before they graduated to Action Moms.
  • Action Hero: Emerson and Ramses. In the later novels, Ramses usually gets beaten up at least once a book.
  • Action Mom: Amelia, as well as her daughter-in-law Nefret.
  • Adventure Archaeologist: Both Amelia and Emerson, though in subverted form. They despise the treasure-hunting kind of archaeologist, and originally bond over their passion for preserving and learning from the artifacts that they discover.
  • Adult Fear: In Justin(e) and her henchmen holding Miryam's son hostage to force her to work with them.
    • Justine(e) has also been terrorizing Charla at night through her bedroom window, but her parents assume she is having night terrors. The truth isn't revealed for some time.
  • Affably Evil: Sethos lives and breathes this trope.
  • Amateur Sleuth: Amelia and Emerson, and later Ramses and Nefret.
  • Amnesiac Lover: This happens to Emerson at one point.
  • Animal Lover: The whole core family. They all hate cruelty toward animals and despise wasteful "sport" hunting.
    • One of Amelia's Berserk Buttons is blatant animal abuse, and she insists on inspecting and doctoring all animals acquired for their digs before they are put to work. One of Abdullah's Catch Phrases in the early years is a resigned, 'Yes, Sitt Hakim, the donkeys have been washed'. At one point, Ramses reminisces one one of his fondest childhood memories: Amelia calmly scrubbing a camel with a long-handled brush while it kicked and bellowed so violently that it took two of the expedition crew to hold it in place.
    • "The Curse of the Pharaohs" mentions an incident between Emerson and one of their neighbors in England: Amelia notes that she understands 'escorting the fox off the field when it's about to be trapped', but that 'pulling Sir Harold out of his saddle and thrashing him with his own riding crop' was a bit superfluous.
  • Apron Matron: Amelia's parasol is a weapon feared throughout Egypt (before her husband gave her a sword-cane version), and senior British officials cringe at the thought of her tongue-lashings. In one book, she reveals that she replaced all the steel 'bones' in her corset with custom made knives, including a couple that needed their own sheaths.
  • Badass in Distress: Most of the main cast take a turn at this, but Ramses is especially prone to it.
  • Badass Family: The Peabody-Emerson family, not forgetting the Egyptian in-laws.
  • Battle Butler: Gargary. The rest of the staff is pretty handy in a fight too.
  • Battle Couple:
    • Amelia and Emerson: Despite the amount of time they waste going behind each other's backs in misguided attempts to protect each other, the climax of many of the stories has them side by side or back to back. Genius Bruiser and a Victorian feminist's Unstoppable Rage:
      Emerson (somewhat dazedly): There is blood on your parasol, Peabody.
    • Ramses and Nefret eventually grow into a milder example, as they prefer more indirect methods. If they do need to resort to force, however: watch out.
  • The Berserker: Harm to her husband or son will turn prim, petite Amelia into one of these. Watch out for the parasol.
  • Be Careful What You Say: Evelyn states that she has so many children.
  • Beta Couple: Several — David and Lia, Cyrus and Catherine, Walter and Evelyn, Sethos and Margaret, Daoud and Kadija.
  • Canon Welding: With Peters' Vicky Bliss series. A fairly early book establishes Amelia as an historical figure, and it turns out that one of the main characters in that series is descended from one of Ramses and Nefret's children — though we never find out which one (other than that it's a daughter).
  • Cannot Spit It Out:
    • Amelia's companion Evelyn and Emerson's brother Walter in Crocodile on the Sandbank. Amelia eventually gets so fed-up with both of them that she spits it out for Evelyn:
      Amelia: She loves someone else...The one she loves is a poor wretch who won't even declare himself.
      Walter: You cannot mean...
      Amelia: Yes, you fool. She loves you. I don't know why, but she does. Now go and claim her.
    • Not to mention Ramses, for fourteen years. Justified by his being about eight or nine years old when it starts.
  • Casual Danger Dialog: What do you talk about while crawling through the unstable, half-crumbled passages of an un-excavated pyramid, hoping that your 7 year old son is right when he says he knows a way out? The similarities of construction with other 12th Dynasty pyramids, of course!
  • Catchphrase:
    • Amelia herself has several. She has a love for aphorisms, but these are all her:
      • "We must have a Council of War!" near the climax of most cases.
      • She frequenty makes or consults "one of my little lists" of clues.
      • "Another shirt Ruined!" —Both Emerson and Ramses tend to be rather hard on their clothes, if for somewhat different reasons. There used to be a fansite for the series that used this as it's name.
      • She often has "the direst of forebodings". The family eventually pick this one up, at least when they are expressing their misgivings to Amelia.
      • "I had, of course, considered that / thought of that / anticipated that"However, 
      • "I suspected him from the start!" —Ramses once remarked that this is meaningless because she always suspects everyone.
    • Abdullah in later books often laments: "Every year, another dead body." He's got a point.
    • Emerson eventually settles into a frustrated "Another cursed pair of young lovers" whenever he detects signs that Amelia's Shipper on Deck tendencies are going to distract from the Important archaeological work they have in front of them.
  • Cats Are Mean: Nefret's cat, Horus, is a demon incarnate to everyone but Nefret and Sennia.
  • Cats Are Snarkers: The long line of Emerson cats all manage this without talking.
  • Child Prodigy: Ramses, to an insufferable degree. Funnily, Ramses comes to recognize this himself as an adult. Can't quite bring himself to apologize to his mother for this, though.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Amelia and Emerson intend Ramses and Nefret to be (adoptive) brother and sister, but Ramses never saw it that way. But he won't tell Nefret until he has some indication she feels the same. After a great deal of angst on his part, Nefret eventually comes around.
  • The Clan: The Peabody-Emersons, eventually. In the chronologically last book (so far), their friends the Vandergelt family become linked to them by marriage as well (David's cousin Jumana agrees to marry Cyrus' step-son Bertie).
  • Commuting on a Bus: Karl von Borg, Sethos
  • Covered in Mud: In The Curse of the Pharaohs, Amelia's son Ramses interrupts a tea party after having gone digging in the compost heap and getting covered in mud (among other things). Ramses is described as not so much leaving muddy footprints as having a stream of filth trailing behind him.
  • Cutlass Between the Teeth: Discussed; Amelia regrets that it's not actually possible.
    "That has always struck me as an impractical procedure," I said. "One would have to have extremely hard teeth and strong jaw muscles, and even then an involuntary movement might easily result in the loss of teeth and jaw."
  • Cyanide Pill: In Lion in the Valley, one of Sethos's men is captured by Amelia, and takes poison (prussic acid) rather than be questioned.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Amelia has had at least one dream-conversation with her deceased friend Abdullah in each novel since his death. They are cryptic enough that they do not interfere with fair play in the detection, but she believes them to be genuine.
  • Direct Line to the Author: The whole series is supposedly being extracted by an editor from Amelia's private journal and a "Manuscript H" giving a third-person account of the experiences of Ramses and occasionally Nefret.
  • Disappeared Dad: And husband. Sethos isn't very good at this kind of thing. Actually he's very good at the 'disappeared' part...
  • Disinherited Child: The Earl of Ellesmere disinherited his daughter for marrying an Italian, and later his granddaughter Evelyn when she fell for an Italian as well and ran off with him (not realizing he was a con artist). Later subverted in the latter case, as he changed his mind and hand-wrote a new will officially leaving everything to her.
  • Downer Ending: Not usually, but Falcon at the Portal did not end on a happy note.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Amelia
  • Dude, She's Like, in a Coma!: In Crocodile on a Sandbank, Amelia comes out of a swoon to feel herself being tenderly held and kissed by her not-yet-husband Emerson with whom she has a Slap-Slap-Kiss relationship going. Not only is she totally fine with it, she shams unconsciousness for a few more minutes to prolong the moment!
  • Everyone Can See It: From Abdullah to Tarek
  • Exact Words: All of the Emersons, especially Amelia, tend to use these rather than outright lies when dissembling (including to each other).
  • The Exotic Detective: The basis of the series.
  • Faking the Dead: Sethos. Twice.
    Emerson: "If he dies again I am going to kill him!"
  • Family Eye Resemblance: This is what allows Sennia to be passed off as Ramses' child.
  • Fee Fi Faux Pas: Amelia manages a rather large one very near the beginning of Crocodile on the Sandbank. She claims that what she says upon hearing Evelyn's tearful, angsty, "I was seduced and now you are going to kick me back out on the street" confession is not what she meant to say:
    Amelia: Evelyn— what is it like? Is it pleasant?
    [Despite her own surprise, she decides to roll with it:]
    Amelia: I have never had the opportunity of inquiring. My sisters in law... speak of the cross a wife must bear... [but] the village girls...
    [Cue starving, borderline-suicidal Evelyn doubled over laughing.]
  • Flirty Stepsiblings: Ramses and Nefret.
  • Foreshadowing: Nefret says that Sethos "treated her like an indulgent uncle" during "He Shall Thunder in the Sky". We find out later in the book that Sethos is Emerson's illegitimate half-brother
  • Flowery Insults: Emerson has well earned is Arabic nickname, "Father of Curses". His fluent, inventive command of invective is viewed with awe by many of the Egyptian characters. He seems less fluent when swearing in English, but since Amelia Bowdlerizes her own journals, we can't be sure.
  • Friendly Enemy: After a certain point, Amelia and Sethos' relationship is mostly this. (Emerson isn't so complacent.)
  • Genius Bruiser: Emerson, frequently described by his wife both as "Herculean" and also as "the greatest archeologist of this or any other age".
  • Go-Go Enslavement: Amelia is forced to dress in a sexy harem costume by the Big Bad of Lion in the Valley. Of course she dons it over her 'combinations' (long underwear) meaning the effect is not quite as intended. Even so Emerson's first words to her are "Put some clothes on!"
  • Go to Your Room!: Ramses is often told this, with explicit instructions to stay there, because he will leave otherwise.
  • Happily Married: Amelia and Emerson. Evelyn and Walter. Eventually David and Lia, and Nefret and Ramses.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Sethos.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Nefret. When her hair isn't described as "golden", most characters seem to agree it's "red-gold".
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Abdullah. And Sethos twice!
  • Historical Domain Character: The Emersons have several friends who fit this class. Howard Carter, who found the tomb of Tutankhamun, appears a lot, and T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) shows up at least twice. Emerson has a particular dislike for fellow Egyptologist Flinders Petrie, possibly because Petrie is the Real Life model for Emerson and the fellow who in Real History developed many of the archaeological principles and techniques Amelia credits Emerson with devising.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Amelia and Emerson. He's 6 feet tall and massively muscular —His neck and shoulders are sometimes likened to those of a bull— with very strong hands.note  She's 5 foot nothing, and of a slender build.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Two-fer in "Lion in The Valley": Amelia claims to prefer H. Rider Haggard's romances to Ramses' detective novels because the former are "pure fantasy and don't pretend to be anything else" while complaining that the later arrive at their solutions by "wild guesses that turned out to be correct only because of... plot", instead of true reasoning. A few pages later, she says "I knew I was being observed... with the certain instinct described so well by Mr. Haggard". Also note that Amelia's approach to solving mysteries tends to be "intuitive". At least Ms. Peters plays fair, and lets her be wrong sometimes.
    • At one point in The Last Camel Died at Noon, Amelia pats herself on the back for nagging her husband into a certain course of action. When it goes badly a few pages later, she notes that if he'd listened to her, he would never have taken that course. Apparently, she forgot to edit the relevant portion of her journal.
    • Emerson does this all the time too. You'll lose track of how many times he tells someone (especially Amelia) not to lose their temper, despite the fact that his own has earned him the nickname "Father of Curses" and everyone in Egypt is afraid to cross him.
  • Idiot Ball: Everyone at one time or another.
  • I Resemble That Remark!: ""I never raise my voice," Emerson bellowed. A ghostly echo came rolling back from the depths of the tomb, as if the king's spirit were objecting to being awakened."
  • It Makes Sense in Context:
    Amelia: "Emerson, that villain, that remarkable, clever wretch has seduced our cat!"
  • Kid Detective: Ramses, in the earlier books.
  • Lady of Adventure: Amelia. Nefret and Margret Minton are, too, though not in Amelia's league.
  • Lamarck Was Right:
    • Ramses inherits his talents at disguise and general sneakiness from his uncle Sethos. Let's face it, Amelia and Emerson would make a good army just by themselves, but sneakiness isn't exactly among their considerable talents.
    • Also, the character in the Vicky Bliss series who turns out to be descended from Ramses? Starts off as a master thief and antiquity smuggler, with a knack for disguise.
  • Large Ham: Emerson might grumble about the wasted time, but he really gets into the exorcisms that he throws when setting up camp in abandoned buildings, empty tombs, and the like. These locations invariably have reputations for being haunted, and the antics of the criminals that the family contend with don't help. The superstitious local workmen are usually much reassured after he's put on a "magic" show, complete with special effects. He's pretty good at it: the shows are perpetually popular even with his trained cadre, who have had enough experience to suspect human evildoers before Afrits and Djinn.
  • Love at First Sight: At one point, Ramses says outright that he had this for Nefret, regardless of the fact he was a child at the time.
  • Love at First Punch:
    • Love at First Shout, at least: Amelia and Emerson first meet in a museum where he lambastes her for daring to dust some of the artifacts. She gives as good as she gets. She spends the rest of the afternoon grousing about how rude and unpleasant he is, but then she meets an aristocratic young man and can't help comparing their manner, physique, hands... the young dandy comes off much the worse in the comparison.
    • It's unclear exactly when Sethos developes his crush on Amelia, but it's quite probable that it dates from when one of his henchmen knocks Ramses into a wall. She goes utterly berserk, beats up the henchmen, and stabs Sethos with her parasol. The next we hear from him, he's sending her utterly miscalculated love gifts.
  • Love Epiphany: When Nefret finally realized how she felt about Ramses, the sound she made is described as half squeak, half sob.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: When Sethos reveals his adoration for Amelia, he lists all the things he's done throughout the novel in order to try and win her regard. They are, to a one, silly, convoluted or both.
  • Loyal Animal Companion: The Cat Bastet note , for Ramses. She's also pretty intelligent for a cat. To the extent that Ramses has a dream of her the night she dies (he's away at the time) which is implied to be her personal farewell to him after death. But then, she is an Egyptian cat. Her grandson, Horus, becomes this to Nefret and Sennia.
  • Mama Bear: While Amelia does love Ramses she's very unsentimental about it, much to the frustration of Emerson who wishes she'd be more affectionate towards their only child. Then during the family's first proper encounter with Sethos, one of the Master Criminal's henchmen slams Ramses into a wall and Amelia believes he's dead. The next thing she remembers is Emerson shaking her out of her blind rage, the henchmen cowering on the floor and begging for mercy, a bloodstained parasol from having stabbed Sethos with it, and Ramses pressed flat against the wall in sheer terror.
  • Master of Disguise: Sethos and Ramses both. Ramses, in fact, developed his own skill at disguise while still a young boy, after stealing one of Sethos' rather comprehensive makeup kits; for a while before puberty he was in the habit of disguising himself so convincingly as a girl that the Emersons' servants thought they were being haunted by a child's ghost. In one book, Sethos spends most the plot hanging out with Ameilia, disguised as her and Emerson's good friend Cyrus Vandergelt, and she can't tell the difference.
  • Mighty Whitey: Both used and subverted. Amelia and her husband, son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren are all white, and regarded with awe, admiration, and dread by the Egyptians they work with, however, this is mostly for various talents, skills, or shenanigans rather than being white; but one of the causes they champion is equal rights for Egyptians, and they cultivate some impressive Egyptian sidekicks (though none in their own league), several of which become family by marriage. In The Last Camel Died at Noon, Amelia and family visit a Lost World, where Amelia is irritated to discover that the heroic native prince believes in the Mighty Whitey trope.
  • Mindlink Mates: Ramses and Nefret have a one-way link, whereby Nefret knows when Ramses is in imminent danger (which is most of the time).
  • Mr. Smith: A recurring character is a British spymaster who often goes by "Smith", partly because spies use pseudonyms and partly because it's so much easier than coping with his real name of "the Honorable Algernon Bracegirdle-Boisdragon".
  • Not Now, Kiddo: Happens to Ramses, particularly in Lion in the Valley.
  • Now or Never Kiss: Realizing he could well die that night Emerson refused to go off without kissing Amelia once, when she's conscious, even at the risk of living to face the consequences — which turn out to be a long and happy marriage.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Nobody ever calls Ramses "Walter".
  • Papa Wolf: Emerson. Shades into Overprotective Dad with regard to Nefret sometimes; not so much about sex as about shielding her from the world's ugliness. He'll say she shouldn't be permitted to examine a gruesome corpse, ignoring the fact that she's a fully trained doctor and would politely and lovingly tell him where to stuff his objections. At least once after she and Ramses married, Ramses got a bit irritated by Emerson's attitude effectively implying that Ramses didn't do a proper job of looking after her; he was rather maliciously amused when Emerson became embarrassed to realize Nefret was taking a bath in the next room.
  • Parasol of Pain: Amelia makes an art form of this. Justified, in that she prefers sturdy, well built examples that can stand up to the rigors of hiking in rough terrain and scrambling around ruins. Later books reveal that she has found the secondary uses of her parasol so convenient that she's now custom-ordering them with extra-strong steel shafts and unusually sharp, pointed finials. Uses include:
    • Making a path through packed crowds
    • Smartly applied to the wrist, it's excellent for fending off women who are being inappropriately clingy around her husband
    • Stabbing people who attack her son
    • Intimidation, at least once she's developed a bit of a reputation. Many of the less-educated Egyptians believe that her parasol is a great and mighty magical weapon.
  • Passed-Over Inheritance:
    • Amelia inherited her father's full estate, since she was the only one who shared his interest in ancient history. Her six older brothers, who were all successful merchants and professional men, were not amused to find out they'd missed out on half a million pounds (having not realized that their father was actually wealthy), and multiple attempts were made to claim the sum for themselves, though Amelia and her father's lawyer stopped all of them.
    • Not done intentionally by the Earl of Ellesmere (at least, not at first), but effectively when his son died; his title had to go to the closest male heir (his grandson by his eldest and disinherited daughter) by law, preventing his granddaughter Evelyn from getting everything. He later disinherited her entirely when she fell for an Italian, who turned out to be a con artist. At least, for a while. He later changed his mind and wrote a new will, giving her everything, before dying.
  • Police Are Useless: Or so Amelia, and to an extent the rest of the family believe. They use this as an excuse to pursue their investigations as they see fit.
    • Justified when they are in Egypt; The European authorities generally don't care to intervene in cases where the victims are Egyptians, and the Egyptian police are either incompetent due to lack of training or afraid to press matters when a European is suspected of being the criminal.
    • Not so when in England, where there are competent investigators. The friction that this attitude causes makes applying Amelia and Emerson's real expertise in Egyptian culture to incidents involving London's Cairene population... more difficult than it needs to be.
  • Put on a Bus: Percy Emerson, the Frasers, Mary and Karl von Borg.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Evelyn was raised by her grandfather, as she explains in book 1, her parents having died when she was a baby.
  • Riding into the Sunset: Invoked and lampshaded in "The Mummy Case". When M. de Morgan returns Ramses to his parents after a minor escapade, he deliberately rides off toward the sunset, despite having dinner plans in the opposite direction. The Emersons dryly agree:
    Frenchmen— Anything for a grand gesture!
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: Unsurprisingly, considering the setting, some form of this is always used by someone, protagonists included.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Ramses does this a lot as a child; he eventually grows out of it. Alas, his son inherits it. In fact, David John's first sentences are requesting to be called by his full name and "What subject would you like to discuss?" which prompts Amelia to beg Emerson for a drink.
  • Shipper on Deck: Amelia. Every book, sometimes for more than one couple. Methods range from moderately subtle such as , to practically whacking Walter upside the head when he Can't Spit It Out.
    • In Crocodile on The Sandbank she encourages Evelyn to express her feelings to Walter, despite Evelyn's fears that her Defiled Forever status would lead to a painful rejection. Turns out that Amelia read Walter correctly.
    • Hilariously mis-aimed in Curse of The Pharaohs: Mary has been very assiduously nursing Arthur, who is recovering from a serious head injury. As the denouement unfolds, Amelia drags the conversation outside of his room, leaving Mary behind. Some time later, Mary joins the party, and we get this exchange:
      Mary: He is asleep, I am so happy for him. He will so enjoy being lord Baskerville.
      Amelia: And I am happy for you.
      Mary (blushing): But how did you know? We haven't told anyone yet.
      Amelia: I always know these things

Cue Karl stepping over to Mary and putting his arm around her. Mary Snuggles in. Of course... 
  • Shipping Torpedo: Played with for Emerson in "Crocodile on the Sandbank". Amelia spends most of the book thinking that the reason that he keeps dropping rude or disparaging comments into her conversations with Evelyn and Walter because he disapproves of a match. Ultimately subverted. When the couple finally confess their feelings for each other, he is quite satisfied. He knows his shy little brother, and every little dig was calculated to goad Walter into taking a decisive stand.
  • Shout-Out:
    • To Sherlock Holmes — the second book has characters belonging to a different branch of the Baskerville family, and someone under the pseudonym of Milverton, as well as a direct reference to Holmes, while book four has Amelia meet a detective named Tobias Gregson who's not actually either of those things. There are also references to H. Rider Haggard's stories, in addition to the Homage mentioned above involving Nefret's backstory.
    • Elizabeth Peters is a Discworld fan. One of the World War I-era stories had Sethos pretending to be a German agent reporting to a "von Überwald".
  • Shown Their Work: The Egyptology and history of archeology is solid, because Elizabeth Peters (IRL Barbara Mertz) is an Egyptologist and writes non-fiction under her real name.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Amelia and Nefret and to a lesser extent Evelyn. Literally in the case of their parasols.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Our protagonists relationship started with a shouted argument in a museum. This seems to be their primary way of discussing important issues, though they never escalate to the point of actual blows. After a quarter century of this, Emerson even advises Ramses that regular brisk "discussions" are good for the health of a marital relationship; clearing the air and enhancing the mood for post-argument romance.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Percy does this to Ramses
  • Tempting Fate: In "Falcon at the Portal" Nefret asks Lia in a letter, "What could Percy do to hurt Ramses?" They find out very quickly.
  • The Bus Came Back: The Frasers reappear in "Seeing A Large Cat" and Percy reappears in "The Falcon at the Portal".
  • They Do: Ramses and Nefret, eventually.
  • Title Drop: In several of the novels.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Amelia and Evelyn in the first book. By the time Evelyn re-appears as a major character, it's obvious they did learn from each other, — for instance, Amelia, who was utterly uninterested in all but the most utilitarian clothes at the beginning now can talk fashion with the best of them, and Evelyn is thrilled about wearing bloomers and bicycle dresses.
  • Unto Us a Son and Daughter Are Born: Ramses and Nefret's children, at least until the last book when it is revealed that Nefret is pregnant with a girl.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: As noted in Historical Domain Character, Emerson and Peabody clearly are versions of Real Life Flinders Petrie and his friend and patron Amelia Edwards, embellished up to 11 and married to each other.
  • Victorian London: The series starts in this period, but outlives it by quite a bit.
  • Villainous Crush: In Lion on the Sandbank, Amelia is oblivious to the fact that the Master Criminal, aka Sethos, appears to be courting her. Not even when he sends her flowers. Emerson of course figures it out, and grows incredibly jealous and paranoid as a result.
  • You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: Amelia knows Emerson's really angry at her when he calls her "Amelia" rather than the usual "Peabody".
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Violet Peabody is only seen in "Deeds of the Disturber".
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Emerson and Sethos.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Emerson for all his large physique, short temper and boisterousness, would never harm — or allow any harm to come to — a child, his or anyone else's.


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