Barbara Mertz, an erstwhile Egyptologist better known to millions of readers as Barbara Michaels or Elizabeth Peters, the noms de plume on the covers of her dozens of top-selling historical mysteries and romantic thrillers, died Aug. 8 at her home near Frederick, Md. She was 85.
Her daughter, Elizabeth Mertz, confirmed her death and said she did not yet know the cause.
She wrote two scholarly books on ancient Egypt in the 1960s but was unable to find employment in academia. When she turned to fiction, she discovered that she had a talent, and that readers had an appetite, for particular tales of historical intrigue.
By weaving the curiosities of ancient Egypt, archaeology and other rarefied fields into her fiction, Dr. Mertz produced one crowd-pleasing yarn after another.