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The Egyptologist: A Novel

A book by Arthur Phillips

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'All that glisters is not Gold'

  • Jan 9, 2005
  • by
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 part of the reader to stay with him to the (seemingly interminable) end.

The plot is well described on this site: suffice it to say that the story involves two versions of one Ralph Trilipush, an Egyptologist of questionable origins, who corresponds to his Boston 'sweetheart' (who just happens to be 1) the daughter of a wealthy entrepreneur subsidizing Trilipush's Egypt digs and 2) an opium addict), while concurrently a Private Investigator is exploring odd deaths and inheritance issues and is bent on unmasking Trilipush's credentials and identity.

Subplots abound and tend to muddy the waters at times, but the bifurcation of the two-voiced narrative is ultimately worthwhile as we learn a lot about archeology, the fascination with Egyptian Pharaohs' tombs, and the universal preoccupation with immortality.

While it is evident that Arthur Phillips is a gifted writer, at times it feels like the end does not justify the means. It would be very informative to read a group of short stories by this young star and see if the story would become more primary in his focus. THE EGYPTOLOGIST makes demands on the reader, and if you are one who doesn't mind a bit of work, then this is a book for you. Grady Harp, January 2005

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More The Egyptologist: A Novel reviews
review by . August 13, 2008
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, …
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 …
About the reviewer
Grady Harp ()
Ranked #96
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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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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