The Egyptologist by

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Journal: Arrival in Cairo via rail from Alexandria. Set to work immediately. Have scheduled five days in Cairo for logistics and background wailting prior to heading south to site


The Egyptologist didn’t really grab me when I started to read it, I’m never a huge fan of first-person narrators, and stories told by a mix of letter and journal can often put me off. But I stayed with it, and was pleasantly surprised.

The main body of the plot revolves around one Ralph Trilipush, an English archaeologist who is determined to find the tomb of Atum-hadu, or King Atum is Aroused. Earlier in his life he translated the works of this possible King, earning a reputation as a pornographer. And some critical reviews of those who believed that Atum-hadu never existed, and that Trilipush’s translation is based on a forgery. Ralph wants more than anything to prove them wrong, to find the glories that Atum-hadu was buried with, to prove that he is a worthy Egyptologist and academic.

There is also the story of Harold Ferrell, a private detective intent on solving the case of the missing young Australian soldier Paul (Caldwell) Davies. He went missing while serving in Egypt in World War I and was a keen, though self-taught, Egyptologist himself.

Ferrell’s investigations take him to America, and the home of the Finnerans. Mr. C.C. Finneran is financing Trilipush’s expedition, and the daughter, Margaret is engaged to be married to Ralph. Quite taken with Margaret Finneran Ferrell decides not to reveal his that he believes Trilipush killed the missing soldier a few years earlier, and that he doesn’t intend to ever come back.

And all through the novel this issue is raised. Is Trilpush the scholar he makes himself out to be, hounded by overly conservative peers, a murderer intent on skipping out with as much money as he can, or simply an incompetant scholar.

For the most part the writing is engaging and very readable. It was merely the story that didn’t grip me from the start. But the more I read the more I enjoyed this blend of humour, archaeology and murder mystery.

I did have a fair idea what the resolution to the murder was going to be, but the actual end of the book took me surprise. To say any more would be to spoil the story, so it’ll suffice to say that this is a most enjoyable read, with its fascination with immortal Egyptian kings, communist librarians, thieving circuses and opium-addicted heiresses.

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