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The Egyptologist: A Novel Paperback – May 24, 2005
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Top Customer Reviews
I read the review for this in People magazine- I love books set among the pyramids, and the mystery/plot sounded intriguing. The review was really a rave, and seemed to imply that there might be some sort of a twist at the end...
Eh. There is. Well, there's supposed to be. But you figure it out pretty early on. An earlier reviewer here was generous and said you figure it out 1/2 through... but I don't think it takes that long. The book has a "get on w/ it" feel to it b/c you have it all figured out (even if you weren't really trying).
I don't think the intention is for you to figure it out. Instead, I think the dramatic tension is supposed to stem from the idea that you aren't (supposed to be) sure what happened to the missing (assumed murdered) people. But you are. So you are sorta bored.
This is a side note, but there isn't a single likable character in the entire story. This doesn't necessarily kill a story, but w/ a relatively nonmysterious mystery, little depth of Egypt in the 20s, and unlikable people... there's not much to root for. I had to force myself to finish it to see if I was missing something.
If you want mysteries w/ some pretty good details of Egyptology, the Amelia Peabody series is amusing. It's certainly not high art (more light reading), but more interesting than this book.
As Howard Carter is discovering King Tut's fabulous tomb, Ralph Trilipush is over the next sand dune digging for the tomb of King Atum-hadu, whose hieroglyphic [slick stuff] (translated with great vigor) obsesses him. Ralph is staking his professional reputation and his fiancée's considerable fortune on finding this tomb, and in fact, may have knocked several people off to get to it. At least, that's the belief of an intrepid Australian detective who is traveling the world looking for a murderer, or maybe a serial murder, or maybe even Ralph Trilipush. The layered construction gives Phillips plenty of opportunity for narrative shenanigans and he relishes them all.
I try to avoid comparing books, but the satisfaction I got from "The Egyptologist" reminded of the pleasure of reading A. S. Byatt's "Possession." No, the books are not similar and no, this is not another "Possession", but Phillips has the same respect for his readers' intelligence and he expects you to be able to hang on for the hairpin turns. The result is a smart, teasing, clever, and highly enjoyable novel.
The basic story is that Trilipush has convinced his fiancee's father to bankroll (at some risk to himself) his amateur dig in Egypt to find the tomb of Atum-hadu, the king-pornographic poet who may or may not have existed. Round the corner from his own dig and working on his own relatively minor and sure to be disappointing excavation (according to Trilipush) is Howard Carter (the tomb is King Tut's). Meanwhile, in a more complicated side-story, Ferrel is digging up (sorry) Trilipush's own past, or at least trying to, both for his own reasons and for various clients who have differing reasons of their own. Mixed into this are several strange disappearances, missing or falsified records, professional jealousies, etc.
The book starts of quite well, an enjoyable and interesting ride, both for the characters and the egyptology. But it slows greatly through the middle and there were several times I debated whether it was worth picking up and continuing.Read more ›
I wanted to chime in with an observation, because I was surprised to see that so many people were disappointed by this book because they were able to figure out the twist early on, and knew what happened to the missing characters almost from the beginning.
Here's why that surprised me: if you *don't* figure those things out, you miss the entire point of the book, and there's no way you can enjoy what the story is actually about. This book isn't about the mystery of Paul Caldwell. Rather, it's a masterful exploration of self-delusion, self-deception, and how we create the things we need to believe about ourselves in order to get through our lives. Some of the characters don't realize they are lying to themselves. Some do (or do they?). But to a degree, they all (as do we all) see things that aren't there.
My book club read and discussed this book. Three of the members thought this book was about the mystery, and didn't like it. Three thought it was about an exploration of how we filter and create our own realities, and loved it. By the end of the discussion, the first three said that now that they'd heard what the other three saw in it, they wanted to go back and re-read it again; they said that what we saw was a much more interesting side to the book, and that while they hadn't seen it at first, they wanted to explore it after hearing us talk about it.
So, based on their experience, I'm writing to pass that on to anyone who is on the fence about the book due to reading these reviews...If you go into this book looking for more than a mystery, you'll find a great read. If the themes I've talked about don't interest you, you may be disappointed. But otherwise, I think you'll find a lot to think about here.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Reading Phillips's The Egyptologist was a wonderful, wonderful romp through the days when every Brit or Ivy-League scholar with a financial backer and a pith helmet ran about Egypt... Read morePublished 9 days ago by cryptkeeper
This is a largely epistolary novel that tracks the efforts to discover the grave of a fictitious Egyptian king. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Gus
While the story was interesting overall, it got bogged own in too much narrative.Published 15 months ago by Anthony Gurule
While I fancy myself a fairly well read person and possessing above average intelligence, I have no clue as to the resolution to the mystery. Read morePublished 18 months ago by AJ
I believe this book either people love or hate it. I found the structure of the whole book presented all via letters was terrific and easy to follow. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Dulcinea del Toboso
I am far from an occasional reader and have a rather acceptable knowledge of Ancient Egypt. Perhaps it is because I have a distaste for epistolary fiction, including Dracula, but... Read morePublished 21 months ago by J. Cui
There are very few books I cannot finish but this is one. Having read Elizabeth Peters marvelous Amelia Peabody mysteries and having read other mysteries about Egypt and... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Gwynn B. Owens
A twisty plot, excellent setting, intriguing characters. I didn't try to anticipate the ending (I never do; I like to be surprised), and as a lover of Egyptology and frequent... Read morePublished on August 26, 2014 by Nancy S. Cunningham