From the bestselling author of Prague comes a witty, inventive, brilliantly constructed novel about an Egyptologist obsessed with finding the tomb of an apocryphal king. This darkly comic labyrinth of a story opens on the desert plains of Egypt in 1922, then winds its way from the slums of Australia to the ballrooms of Boston by way of Oxford, the battlefields of the First World War, and a royal court in turmoil. Just as Howard Carter unveils the tomb of Tutankhamun, making the most dazzling find in the history of archaeology, Oxford-educated Egyptologist Ralph Trilipush is digging himself into trouble, having staked his professional reputation and his fiancée's fortune on a scrap of hieroglyphic pornography. Meanwhile, a relentless Australian detective sets off on the case of his career, spanning the globe in search of a murderer. And another murderer. And possibly another murderer. The confluence of these seemingly separate stories results in an explosive ending, at once inevitable and utterly unpredictable. Arthur Phillips leads this expedition to its unforgettable climax with all the wit and narrative bravado that made Prague one of the most critically acclaimed novels of 2002.
This recording of Phillips's maddeningly suspenseful novel of death, betrayal and morbid self-absorption features outstanding performances by all of the narrators involved. Told through letters, journal entries and telegrams, the book features arrogant British explorer Ralph M. Trilipush; his gadabout American fiancee, Margaret Finneran; and a sardonic Australian detective named Harold Ferrell, who becomes entwined with them both. While the book is told alternately from their three points of view, Trilipush commands the majority of the story, and Prebble's portrayal of him is spot on. The only problem is that he does such a fine job of capturing Trilipush's smug, overbearing attitude that it's difficult to listen to him for long stretches. The episodes told from Ferrell's perspective become welcome respites, and Negroponte's Australian accent is as sharp as the character's purported powers of observation. But Ferrell proves to be only slightly less conceited than Trilipush, and certainly no more reliable. Though the book's many clues are revealed as slowly as artifacts buried beneath the Egyptian sands, this excellent production will pleasantly tease listeners until all is unveiled-even if the main guide is one of the more unlikable characters in recent fiction. Simultaneous release with the Random hardcover (Forecasts, July 5). (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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May 23, 2005
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Excerpt from The Egyptologist by Arthur Phillips
31 Dec. Sunset. Outside the tomb of Atum-hadu. On the Victrola 50: ' I ' m Sitting on the Back Porch Swing (Won ' t You Come Sit by Me, Dear ). '
My darling Margaret, my eternal Queen whose beauty astonishes the sun,
Your father and I are heading home tomorrow, back to you ' the luxurious riverboat north to Cairo, a night at that city ' s Hotel of the Sphinx, then by rail to Alexandria, and from there we have booked victorious passage on the Italian steamer Cristoforo Colombo, ports of call Malta, London, New York, from where we shall catch the very first train to you in Boston. You shall embrace your fianc ' and your father by 20 January.
Upon my return, our wedding will, of course, be our most pressing business. Then, after refreshed preparations, I shall lead a second expedition back here to Deir el Bahari to conduct a photographic survey of the wall paintings and clear the artefacts and treasures from the tomb. All that remains this evening is to seal up the tomb ' s front, leaving my find exactly as I discovered it. And then posting you this package. My messenger is due here presently.
Nothing stands in our way now, my darling. My success here, your father ' s reinstated blessing ' all is precisely as I promised. You will be relieved to know that your father and I are again fast friends. (Thank you for your ' warning ' cable, but your father ' s misplaced anger back in Boston could never have survived his time here in my company!) No, he congratulates me on my find ( ' our find, Trilipush! ' he corrects me), sleepily sends you his love, and sheepishly begs you to disregard those foolish things he told you of me. He was under terrible strain, surrounded by jealousy and intriguers, and now he is simply delighted that I have forgiven him for succumbing, even for an instant, to such corrosive lies. And now we are returning to you, just as you will return to me.
Of course, if you are reading this letter, then I have not, for reasons I can only speculate, made it safely back to Boston and your embrace. I did not arrive trailing clouds of immortal glory, did not drape around your white throat this strand of whitest gold I am bringing you from Atum-hadu ' s tomb. And I did not, taking you gently aside, under the double-height arched windows of your father ' s parlour, brush away your tears of joy at my safe return, and quietly ask you to give me as soon as it arrives a package (this package), that you would be receiving from me shortly, stamped with the alluring postage of far-off Egypt, addressed to me in your care, to be opened by you only in case of my extended and inexplicable absence.
No, events will proceed just as I have foretold, and you will not read this letter. I shall arrive before it, shall gently take it from you before you open it, and all of this will be unread, unnecessary, a precaution known to no one but me.