This could have been much a much better book. But isn’t because it really seems like it can’t decide what it actually wants to be. An interesting, surprising ancient revelation. or an action story. Unfortunately, it ends up feeling like it falls in an unenthusiastic heap somewhere between the two.
The idea that Akenaten was the beginner of an idea of Monotheism (the doctrine or belief that there is one god), that possibly lead to the Jewish and the Christian ‘God’, isn’t a new theory. But it is probably one that would surprise a lot of the readers of this type of Historical Mystery and Adventure novel. And so one that could, if handled correctly, lead to some Dan Brown/’The Da Vinci Code’-type excitement, even notoriety amongst a wider public. But by losing the premis amongst a convoluted tale of chases, corrupt Egyptian Police, mad US preachers, old girlfriends, narcissistic TV Archaeologists and their assistants and rain, lots of rain, it really doesn’t become what it could have been. But, having read the previous one (?) involving Will Adams’ archaeological hero ‘Daniel Cox’, the Alexander Cypher back in June, I really think that part of the problem is that the author either isn’t interested in writing a better book, or isn’t able to. I can’t decide.
Then, as with a lot of these type of adventure stories, he’s also fallen into the trap of putting quotation marks around his theory. Of having his characters have long ‘conversations’ where they regurgitate all the facts the author wants the reader to get up to speed on, to enable the premis of the book/story to move along. Where characters being chased by all sorts of officialdom or underworld hoodlums, run through the streets dodging bullets while also running through what sounds like the presentation of a doctorate thesis. Really, especially in the early sections, the number of lectures they give each other, masquerading as conversations, is unbelievable. Not to say extremely dull if you’re supposed to be reading, or supposed to be writing, an adventure story.
And, in a story where they generally accidentally stumble upon illicit archaeological digs and fall over artifacts in obscure Egyptian back-street markets, isn’t it lucky that – for instance and amongst many other examples – that Knox had; “…wasted countless glorious summer afternoons in a forlorn effort to master Syriac by studying that particular text…” Or his possibly/possibly not girlfriend ‘Gaille’ had; “…worked on her father’s excavation in Amarna for two seasons while still a teenager, and who’d studied the Eighteenth Dynasty for three years at the Sorbonne.” Handy. It often feels like the girl behind the counter in the coffee shop could probably interject with the name of the otherwise never heard of outside the British Museum’s Ancient Greece section obscure Greek philosopher/writer who may have mentioned a fact that proves the unbelievable, improbable and otherwise generally thought to be unprovable.
Then with the chase and adventure part of the story, another irritation came forward. Clearly having read and misunderstood too many Robert Ludlum books, he tries to keep too many (not all that interesting) balls in the air. Switching between different locations and different aspects of the action in the hope of simulating the frenetic atmosphere he’s wanting to project. If not handled correctly, it just gives the whole thing discontinuity. And this isn’t handled correctly or with any great enthusiasm. It just ends up feeling too broken up and frustratingly disjointed.
It was good, but not great. It was exciting in parts, but not in enough parts. It was interesting in premis, but unenthusiastically handled. And that lack of enthusiasm spread to this reader as well. Should I read another of his? I can’t decide.