By Michael Asher 
Harper Collins - Nov. 1999
ISBN: 0002259761

Reviewed by: Rachel Hyde, MyShelf.Com
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Unless they have just arrived from Outer Mongolia or Outer Space Tutankhamen’s tomb and its attendant curse is as well known as Jack The Ripper or Guy Fawkes.  Yet despite its well-worn aspect – or maybe because of it – it still attracts writers to exploit its mysteries and this book is the latest to do so.  Omar James Ross, maverick Egyptologist and half Hawazim (a tribe of nomads who live in the Western Desert) is drawn to Cairo after his friend manages to gasp out a final phone message before his body is found.  The body then vanishes from the morgue but it seen again alive causing Ross to get picked up by the brutal police and interrogated.  As contact after contact expires in mysterious circumstances Ross and the daughter of one of the casualties flee into the desert to join Ross’ mother’s people the Hawazim.  They are soon on course for a fabled lost oasis that will reveal all the secrets that Tutankhamen’s tomb hinted at and more besides. 

Egyptology, Tutankhamen’s curse, Akhenaton, desert tribes, Shepheard’s hotel, camels, souks, sand… is all here.  Reading this novel you learn a lot about those brave sons of the sands the Hawazim and there are chases across the desert, cruel police who don’t balk at torture, mysterious goings-on aplenty and more than hints that Egypt’s past had plenty of supernatural aspects.  Personally what I found was missing from this heady brew was a sense of fun and its lack made me feel that I had been given an exotic meal with one vital ingredient missing.  Elizabeth Peters does this sort of thing beautifully but without this elusive spark I found the whole thing rather ordinary.  For I do enjoy stories of this nature very much and read all that I find and what I have found is that a lot of writers like to do them but they are very difficult indeed to do well.  Read this one for its depiction of a modern Cairo a-seethe with political intrigue and nomads fighting to keep their way of life.  Then, for a perfect fantasy about lost oases and much of the magic of King Solomon’s Mines go out and buy Elizabeth Peters’ The Last Camel Died At Noon.

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