Barbara Mertz

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Barbara Mertz
Born Barbara Mertz
(1927-09-29)September 29, 1927
Canton, Illinois
Died August 8, 2013(2013-08-08) (aged 85)
Frederick, Maryland
Pen name Barbara Michaels, Elizabeth Peters
Occupation Author
Nationality American
Period 1964–2013
Genre Suspense, Mystery, Thriller

Barbara Mertz (September 29, 1927 – August 8, 2013) was an American author who wrote under her own name as well as under the pseudonyms Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels. In 1952 she received a PhD in Egyptology from the University of Chicago. While she was best known for her mystery and suspense novels, in the 1960s she authored two books on ancient Egypt, both of which have remained in print ever since.


Barbara Mertz was born on September 29, 1927, in Canton, Illinois.[1] She was graduated from the University of Chicago with a bachelor's degree in 1947, a master's degree in 1950, and a PhD in Egyptology in 1952,[2] having studied with John A. Wilson.[3] She authored two books on ancient Egypt (both of which have been continuously in print since first publication), but primarily wrote mystery and suspense novels. She had two children, Peter and Elizabeth Mertz. She became a published writer in 1964.

Under the name Barbara Michaels, she wrote primarily gothic and supernatural thrillers. Her publisher chose that pseudonym since Mertz had already published one nonfiction book on ancient Egypt, and the publisher did not want Mertz's novels to be confused with her academic work. Under the pseudonym Elizabeth Peters, Mertz published her Amelia Peabody historical mystery series, using a nom de plume drawn from the names of her two children.

She was member of the Editorial Advisory Board of KMT, ("A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt"), Egypt Exploration Society, and the James Henry Breasted Circle of the University of Chicago Oriental Institute.[4]

Mertz died at her home in Maryland on August 8, 2013.[5]


Mertz received a number of award wins and nominations from the mystery community. Her first recognition came when Trojan Gold was nominated for the 1988 Anthony Award in the "Best Novel" category;[6] the following year, Naked Once More won the 1989 Agatha Award in the same category.[7] Following this Mertz earned a series of Agatha Award "Best Novel" nominations, including The Last Camel Died at Noon in 1991; The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog in 1992; Night Train to Memphis in 1994; Seeing a Large Cat in 1997; The Ape Who Guards the Balance in 1998; and He Shall Thunder in the Sky in 2000 which also received an Anthony Award "Best Novel" nomination in 2001.[6][7] Mertz received a final Agatha Award nomination for "Best Novel" in 2002 for The Golden One and won the "Best Non-fiction Work" the following year for Amelia Peabody's Egypt: A Compendium, which also received an Edgar Award nomination in 2004 in the "Best Critical / Biographical Work" category.[7][8] She was the recipient of a number of grandmaster and lifetime achievement awards, including being named Grandmaster at the Anthony Awards in 1986 and Grandmaster by the Mystery Writers of America in 1998; in 2003, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Malice Domestic Convention.[9] In 2012 she was honored with the first Amelia Peabody Award at the Malice Domestic Convention; the award was named after the leading character in her long-running series.[10]


Fiction written as Elizabeth Peters[edit]

Amelia Peabody[edit]

Main article: Amelia Peabody series

This series contains 19 books; the most recent, A River in the Sky, was published in April 2010. The heroine is an Egyptologist and is married, with one child of her body, Ramses, and two others of her heart: Nefret Forth (3 years older than Ramses) and Sennia (ca. 25 years younger). The stories all relate to the "Golden Age" of Egyptology and nearly all are set in Egypt, with the excavations providing the backdrop for the mystery/adventure plots.

The timeline begins in the 1880s with Amelia's decision to see the world as an unexpectedly-wealthy, feminist spinster, and ends with the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in late 1922. (Peters had planned additional books in the series to "fill in the blanks" in the chronology, as she did with River: set in 1910, though it was written after other books that are set later.)

  1. Crocodile on the Sandbank. 1975.  Covers the 1884–85 Season.[11]
  2. The Curse of the Pharaohs. 1981.  Covers the 1892–93 Season.[11]
  3. The Mummy Case. 1985.  Covers the 1894–95 Season.[11]
  4. Lion in the Valley. 1986.  Covers the 1895–96 Season.[11]
  5. The Deeds of the Disturber. 1988.  Covers Summer 1896.[11]
  6. The Last Camel Died at Noon. 1991.  Covers the 1897–98 Season.[11]
  7. The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog. 1992.  Covers the 1898–99 Season.[11]
  8. The Hippopotamus Pool. 1996.  Covers the 1899–1900 Season.[11]
  9. Seeing a Large Cat. 1997.  Covers the 1903–04 Season.[11]
  10. The Ape Who Guards the Balance. 1998.  Covers the 1906–07 Season.[11]
  11. The Falcon at the Portal. 1999.  Covers the 1911–12 Season.[11]
  12. He Shall Thunder in the Sky. 2000.  Covers the 1914–15 Season.[11]
  13. Lord of the Silent. 2001.  Covers the 1915–16 Season.[11]
  14. The Golden One. 2002.  Covers the 1916–17 Season.[11]
  15. Children of the Storm. April 2003.  Covers the 1919–20 Season.[11]
  16. Guardian of the Horizon. March 2004.  Covers the 1907–08 Season.
  17. The Serpent on the Crown. March 2005.  Covers the 1922 Season
  18. Tomb of the Golden Bird. March 2006.  Covers the 1922–23 season.
  19. A River in the Sky. April 2010.  Covers the 1909–1910 season in Palestine.

additionally: Amelia Peabody's Egypt: A Compendium – Published October 2003

Vicky Bliss[edit]

The Vicky Bliss novels follow the adventures of an American professor of art history, who keeps getting involved in international crime, and a love interest, a charming art thief known as Sir John Smythe. Another Peters novel, The Camelot Caper (1969), while not technically a Vicky Bliss story, features Smythe. The novels can be enjoyed in any order, but the stories are highly sequential in nature and are probably better appreciated if read in order of publication.

  1. Borrower of the Night (1973)
  2. Street of the Five Moons (1978)
  3. Silhouette in Scarlet (1983)
  4. Trojan Gold (1987)
  5. Night Train to Memphis (1994)
  6. The Laughter of Dead Kings (2008)

This series and the Amelia Peabody series are slightly related: a fictional tomb discovered by Amelia Peabody and her husband plays an important role in Night Train to Memphis, and in The Laughter of Dead Kings it is revealed that John Smythe is related to the Emersons.

Jacqueline Kirby[edit]

Jacqueline Kirby is a librarian with a very large purse and a knack for solving mysteries.

Jacqueline makes her first appearance as an unwilling detective in The Seventh Sinner. Though it was intended as a stand-alone novel, The Seventh Sinner's portrayal of its protagonist's maturity, quirkiness, and pursuit of romantic relationships made the character stand out and generated a popular following. The character blossomed with Murders of Richard III and Die For Love; the latter featured her wearing increasingly outrageous costumes and launching on a career as a romance novelist. Jacqueline continued her new career in Naked Once More, writing a sequel to a "famous" prehistoric romance novel.

  1. The Seventh Sinner (1972)
  2. Murders of Richard III (1974)
  3. Die for Love (1984)
  4. Naked Once More (1989)

Other fiction[edit]

  • The Jackal's Head (1968)
  • Her Cousin John (1969)
  • The Dead Sea Cipher (1970)
  • The Night of Four Hundred Rabbits (1971)
  • Legend in Green Velvet (1976)
  • Devil-May-Care (1977)
  • Summer of the Dragon (1979)
  • The Love Talker (1980)
  • The Copenhagen Connection (1982)

The Camelot Caper (1988) – see above

Fiction written as Barbara Michaels[edit]

Georgetown trilogy[edit]

Someone in the House series[edit]

  • Someone in the House (1981)
  • Black Rainbow (1982) (prequel to Someone in the House)

Stand-alone novels[edit]

  • The Master of Blacktower (1966)
  • Sons of the Wolf (1967)
  • Prince of Darkness (1969)
  • The Dark on the Other Side (1970)
  • The Crying Child (1971)
  • Greygallows (1972)
  • Witch (1973)
  • House of Many Shadows (1974)
  • The Sea King's Daughter (1975)
  • Patriot's Dream (1976)
  • Wings of the Falcon (1977)
  • Wait for What Will Come (1978)
  • The Walker in the Shadows (1979)
  • The Wizard's Daughter (1980)
  • Here I Stay (1983)
  • The Grey Beginning (1984)
  • Be Buried in the Rain (1985)
  • Search the Shadows (1987)
  • Smoke and Mirrors (1989)
  • "The Runaway" (ss) Sisters in Crime, ed. Marilyn Wallace, (1989)
  • Into the Darkness (1990)
  • Vanish with the Rose (1992)
  • Houses of Stone (1993)
  • The Dancing Floor (1997)
  • Other Worlds (1999)

Nonfiction books[edit]

  • Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphs (1964; rev. ed. 2007)
  • Two Thousand Years in Rome (with Richard Mertz) (1968)
  • Red Land, Black Land (1966; rev. ed. 2008)


  1. ^ Lindsay, Elizabeth Blakesley, ed. (2007). Great Women Mystery Writers (2nd ed.). Greenwood Press. p. 212. ISBN 0-313-33428-5. 
  2. ^ Langer, Emily. "Barbara Mertz, writer better known as Barbara Michaels and Elizabeth Peters, dies at 85." Washington Post, August 9, 2013. . Accessed Aug 10, 2013.
  3. ^ McQuiston, Joann; Green, Peter (October 11, 1979). "Letters: Egyptian Erudition". New York Review of Books. Retrieved March 9, 2012. 
  4. ^ star17. "The official website of Elizabeth Peters aka Barbara Michaels aka Barbara Mertz". Retrieved 2012-03-09. 
  5. ^ Tolin, Lisa (August 8, 2013). "Barbara Mertz Dead: Mystery Writer Dies At 85". Huffington Post. Retrieved August 8, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "Bouchercon World Mystery Convention : Anthony Awards Nominees". October 2, 2003. Retrieved March 9, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c "Malice Domestic Convention – Bethesda, MD". August 23, 1988. Retrieved March 9, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Edgar Award Winners and Nominees in the Private Eye Genre". Retrieved March 9, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Constable & Robinson". Retrieved June 26, 2012. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Timeline". Amelia Peabody Series. Elizabeth Peters. 

External links[edit]