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The Egyptologist: A Novel

A book by Arthur Phillips

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Mystery, adventure, comedy, and horror story wrapped into a classic bundle

  • Aug 13, 2008
  • by
Truly novel story of misunderstandings, told in the form of letters and journals of two of the main participants in the story. The story reputedly revolves around the murder of an Australian and English soldier in Egypt the day after the end of the Great War, and around the attempt to find the missing Australian soldier to claim a bastard's inheritance.

But as many people will come to learn, the story and even the characters are not what they seem to be. This is a mystery, adventure, comedy, and horror story wrapped into a classic bundle.

The "truly novel" part of the novel (sorry!) is the crosscutting between the contemporary journals of the main character, which quotes cables and letters to and from other characters that advance the reader's knowledge, and letters written over thirty years after the fact by an aging nursing-home bound detective--who had been dispatched from Australia to England to America to find the missing heir. This presentation lets the reader make the most important discoveries on their own, and keeps the reader on his toes and moving forward rapidly to find out what happens next.

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More The Egyptologist: A Novel reviews
review by . January 25, 2011
The Egyptologist is an extraordinary, lush piece of literature that trots across the mummy-crazed globe of the 1920s and witnesses Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter's seminal discovery of the vast riches of Tutankhamen's un-pillaged virginal tomb. But, as in Caldwell and Thomason's "The Rule of Four" or Bondurant's "The Third Translation", things are simply not what they appear and any expectations a reader may have when they set eye to opening paragraph are bound …
review by . March 18, 2005
Arthur Phillips has created a marvelous mystery in "The Egyptologist." The story begins with the journal of Ralph M. Trilipush, intrepid explorer of Egyptian tombs, adjunct professor of Egyptology at Harvard. Trilipush, financed by the father of wife to be and his friends, is preparing an expedition to locate the tomb of Atum-hadu, a pharoah whose very existence is disputed.     Quite unexpectedly, we are introduced to Harold Ferrell, former private investigator and now resident …
review by . January 09, 2005
Arthur Phillips is a fine wordsmith and a gifted technical craftsman of the letters. While nearly every page of his two novels (PRAGUE and now THE EGYPTOLOGIST) reinforce his skills as a writer, those same skills have a tendency to draw too much attention to themselves, leaving the story line of a novel at times tedious and taxing to read. Yet, given these inherent 'flaws', THE EGYPTOLOGIST is an entertaining read, an acceptable mystery whose other face is comedic, and a serious commitment on the …
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Todd Stockslager ()
Ranked #37
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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About this book


How was Phillips to follow up a debut as startlingly brilliant asPrague? By doing something completely different. His story, set mostly in Egypt in the early 1920s, stars Ralph Trilipush, an obsessive Egyptologist. Trilipush is more than a little odd. He is pinning his hopes on purported king Atum-hadu, whose erotic verses he has discovered and translated; now he must locate his tomb and its expected riches. Meanwhile, an Australian detective, for reasons too complicated to go into, is seeking to unmask Trilipush, who may have had some relationship with a young Australian Egyptologist who died mysteriously. Trilipush and the detective are two quite unreliable narrators, and the effect is that of a hall of mirrors. Where does fact end and imagination, illusion and wishful thinking begin? Phillips is a master manipulator, able to assume a dozen convincingly different voices at will, and his book is vastly entertaining. It's apparent that something dire is afoot, but the reader, while apprehensive, can never quite figure out what. The ending, which cannot be revealed, is shocking and cleverly contrived.
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ISBN-10: 1400062500
ISBN-13: 978-1400062508
Author: Arthur Phillips
Publisher: Random House

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