Tribute to a Mystery Author by Carissa Kellerby

Today we raise an honorary glass of gin to a Grand Master mystery writer. Last week, Barbara Mertz, author of nearly 70 mystery novels under two pseudonyms, passed away at the age of 85.

You are probably more familiar with her as Elizabeth Peters, author of the Amelia Peabody series set in Victorian Egypt. This series debuted in 1975 with The Crocodile on the Sandbank and concluded 19 books later in 2010 with A River in the Sky. In a time when a woman’s place was in the home, the outspoken and cheeky Amelia Peabody marched boldly through the desert while having adventures in the mysterious tombs of Egypt that are the envy of any man.

An Egyptologist and archaeologist herself, Mertz also published two non-fiction books on Egypt under her own name. Her extensive historical and cultural knowledge brought a sense of realism to her supernatural mysteries. And one cannot help but wonder if she imparted some of her own personality into the feisty Victorian heroine Amelia Peabody.

Or maybe you know her as Barbara Michaels. Under this pseudonym, she wrote several stand alone mystery novels, such as Houses of Stone and The Wizard’s Daughter, as well as the Georgetown trilogy.

Mertz expertly blended historical detail with supernatural intrigue whether her novels are set in the pyramids of Egypt, the backstreets of London, or a vintage dress shop in Washington, D.C. All her books feature strong female protagonists with a solid head on their shoulders who are more than capable of handling the challenging and often bizarre circumstances they find themselves in. She is a talent who will be sorely missed by readers and writers alike.

As a last farewell, Mertz penned this sentence to be posted on her website before her death: “At 85, Elizabeth Peters (aka Barbara Michaels) is enjoying her cats, her garden, lots of chocolate, and not nearly enough gin.”


I had the opportunity to correspond with her while doing a program on Amelia Peabody for TCCL. She will be dearly missed.

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