Here’s my review of The Egyptologist by Arthur Phillips:
The book is written as a series of epistles and diary entries. While I wouldn’t want to read a lot of books written with this structure, every now and again it’s a nice break from the traditional novel format. Of course, the best thing about this format is that you’re immediately introduced to the writer/characters’ biases and personality more clearly. In Egyptologist we find two main writers and a series of supplemental documents.
The general premise is a Mr. Macy in 1954 has found a journal and several documents pertaining to his aunt’s former fiancee, and he has written to a detective in Australia who worked a case involving the couple. Although we never do meet Macy, the detective, Harold Ferrell, addresses all of his 1954 letters to Macy. The journal serves as the daily diary of Ralph M. Trilipush, an Egyptologist (The Egyptologist) and as a long love letter to his fiancee, Margaret Finneran, Macy’s aunt.
Thoroughly confused yet? Trust me, it’s all much easier to understand in the book. Trilipush has received money from Margaret’s father to finance his dig in Egypt for a little-known, and often discredited king Atum-hadu. Is just so happens that Trilipush’s site is mere minutes from the great excavation of Howard Carter in 1922 and the find of King Tut. While readers do learn a little about life on the dig, the book’s main focus was on the web of lies that Trilipush has built.
What was most interesting about the book was how I related to the different characters. Here’s Ferrel, who is an admirable, mostly honest fellow trying to do his best to gather the truth while making some slight money for himself. Although the most honest character, I couldn’t say that I was rooting for him exactly. I positively despised Margaret and how she treated the men of her life. Mostly she just seemed spoiled, and I’m no fan of spoiled women. Oddly, the character I felt the most for was perhaps the least deserving of them all, Ralph Trilipush. Perhaps that’s because his diary was the largest portion of the book, or perhaps it’s because we learned more about him than any other character. In any case, I always admire when a writer can convince readers to root for the bad guy. Or was he merely misguided?
Overall, it was a very entertaining book. The characters were positively captivating, and the plot kept you wanting more. There are a few twists and “surprises” in the book, but I really do think the author meant for the reader to guess the basic twists. The real plot twist was how would all of the lies and truths come unraveled for Trilipush?