This is the latest novel trying to capitalize on the amazing success of The Da Vinci Code
by positing an ancient mystery, contemporary scholars, rare documents, greedy collectors, and a quasi-academic protagonist. In this case he's an American Egyptologist living in London who's got less than a week to unlock the secrets of the Stela of Paser, a funerary stone whose references to a "third way" of deciphering the hieroglyphics inscribed on the stone have teased, tempted and eluded would-be translators for centuries.
Walter Rothschild has sacrificed a wife, a child, and many of the other things that make life worth living to pursue a passion cultivated in childhood and encouraged by his own father. Less than a week before his grant runs out and the Stela of Paser returns to its dusty basement in the British Museum, Walter is seduced and drugged by a mysterious young woman who steals a precious document from the Museum; in search of her and the papyrus scroll, Rothschild encounters a cult of would-be mystics who will stop at nothing to get him to decipher the Stela and reveal its secrets--especially those that promise a "third way" between life and death, "the endless quest of the ancient kings." While Walter's efforts are admirable, he is basically a boring, fretful, and regretful man who fails to engage the reader. That's too bad, for otherwise this is a beautifully written, thoroughly researched, and finely detailed novel based somewhat on the author's own obsession with the Stela. But if you share his passion for Egyptology, and want a more learned discourse on its arcana than the Amelia Peabody mysteries provide, The Third Translation is well worth reading. --Jane Adams
From Publishers Weekly
Walter Rothschild, a middle-aged Egyptologist at the British Museum, has abandoned his wife and child to spend his time obsessively poring over the dusty inscriptions of a dead civilization. He is forced to reconnect with life when he is seduced by a mysterious woman who then steals an ancient papyrus containing the key to the enigmatic hieroglyphics of the Stela of Paser. The conspiracy trail leads Walter to a modern-day cult of the Egyptian sun god, Aten, protected by a menacing team of pro wrestlers. In Bondurant's ambitious debut, a sprawling picaresque is infused with mythic resonance by linking it to ancient Egyptian literature and mythology and to concepts in avant-garde physics, including black holes, general relativity and string theory. The author has an inventive imagination and an ardent feel for place; much of the book is a prose poem to London's squalid demimonde. Though some may feel that Bondurant's erudition and philosophical engagement ("the only way... to make sense of the magnitude of the time and the space and the span of humanity on earth is to grasp onto the one thing that gives you a clear look") slow the pace of his mystery, the success of previous literary novels of suspense bodes very well for this one.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.