The Book of the Dead
by Nick Drake
is a young Chief Detective of the Medjay in Thebes, a family man
with a wife and children he adores, and a somewhat introspective
nature. Pharaoh Akhenaten wants Rahotep to investigate something
very secret and important, so he is summoned to attend the pharoah
in his brand-new desert city of Akhetaten. His wife is missing.
The beautiful Nefertiti has vanished without trace, and she must
be found in time for the festival to declare the new city open.
Rahotep has just ten days to do this, and if he fails, his family
will die, and he will be killed in some gory manner.
Told in Rahotep’s own words, this novel paints a vivid and
uncompromising picture of life in Egypt under the “heretic
pharaoh.” If you are used to the squeaky-clean perfection
of Christian Jacq’s Egypt, then this might be a surprise,
as it give a warts-and-all look at this enlightened society. Torture,
the whims of an all-powerful ruler, poverty, casual violence, and
the vicissitudes of daily life are all shown here. The final picture
is of an ancient people who are not wantonly cruel but are a world
away from what we consider Utopia. This is speculative history as
much as a whodunit, as we don’t know what happened to cause
Nefertiti’s real disappearance, but here is one possible explanation.
main criticism is that for a seasoned detective, Rahotep favors
the “wandering around aimlessly” approach to crime solving
that many more amateur sleuths in novels tend to favor. This seems
strange considering how he has risen to be a chief at his young
age. Akhenaten is not pleased with Rahotep’s lack of progress,
and no wonder! Also, after so much careful plotting and depiction
of the various characters, some aspects of the finale are rather
disappointing to me, but might have other readers’ heads nodding.
Ultimately the book impresses as being a revealing window on the
past where we see the minutiae of daily life unfolding before us
through Rahotep’s eyes. This is its real strength. A standalone
I imagine, but hopefully not all this author will write about Egypt.
UK: Bantam Press (Transworld) US: HarperCollins
UK: January 2007 / US: 4/3/2007
UK ISBN: 10: 0593054016 / 13: 9780593054017
US ISBN: 9780060765897 / 0060765895
Historical Crime - 1340BC, Egypt
More at Amazon UK
NOTE: US edition is different