Monday, September 07, 2009

The Murder Of King Tut - James Patterson and Martin Dugard


The Murder Of King Tut
The Plot To Kill The Child King
James Patterson and Martin Dugard
Little, Brown and Company

Nonfiction/Speculative

Most people know the basics about King Tut and the discovery and subsequent display of the items from his tomb. His golden mask is instantly recognizable. The exact circumstances surrounding his death are more murky. What is clear is that he died at a very young age. The authors here present a possible solution to the young pharaoh’s untimely death.

The book is told in three times: Howard Carter’s long search and eventual discovery of the tomb in 1922; James Patterson’s writing of this book; and the events of Tut’s time. While I enjoy James Patterson’s fiction thrillers, I have to be honest and say that ‘his’ chapters of the book, while mercifully short, were by far the least interesting. Surprisingly, the chapters dealing with Howard Carter were even more fascinating than Tut’s possible story. The author admits that Carter’s story is worthy of a book in itself. It’s true. His life reads like fiction, only better.

The sections dealing with Tut, his family, and his young queen and half-sister are, of course, speculation drawn from available data. With that said, I found it very strange that Tut was referred to, even in very early childhood, as Tutankhamun. I’m no Egyptian scholar, but even my armchair research informs me that he was born Tutankhaten. His father, a fascinating personage in his own right, worshipped the single god, Aten, and wanted all of Egypt to do the same. It’s an important piece of history, and I find it odd that this is completely ignored.

When I was in high school, I had an English teacher who would mark down any student who tried to “gloss over” any subject. I feel like that’s what’s happened here. Obviously, it’s very difficult to read ancient texts and breathe life into lives that were over thousands of years ago, but this felt very much like a surface effort. Without spoiling anything, I found the ultimate solution to be fairly unsatisfying. I did, however, appreciate the time devoted to Tut’s apparently loving relationship with his queen. The sweet image of the young rulers that decorates a throne from Tut’s tomb has always stayed with me. She came alive on the page far more than Tut. Overall, the sections involving Howard Carter were much more emotionally resonant. Perhaps, someday, he’ll get the book he deserves.

Rating: 7
September 2009
ISBN# 978-0-316-03404-3 (hardcover)

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