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Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Paul Sussman - The Lost Army of Cambyses

Review written by Ro Bennett & read live on the bookshow august 2015

I listened to this audio book on the free library service, One Click Digital Audio. The narrator is excellent. 

I have enjoyed both the Paul Sussman books I have read or listened to. The Lost Army of Cambyses is the first in the series, but I started with The Labyrinth of Osiris. He wrote another four books before he died in 2012 aged 46 of a ruptured aneurism, leaving a wife and two sons. His novels have been translated into 33 languages and are set mainly in Egypt where he worked for many years as a field archaeologist in the Valley of the Kings.
Among other finds, he unearthed the only items of pharaonic jewellery to have been excavated in the Valley since the discovery of Tutankhamun. 

In his ‘About the Author” biography page he wrote:  For as long as I can remember, the two great loves of my life have been writing and archaeology (three if you include travelling in out of the way places, especially deserts). For many years I worked as a field archaeologist in Egypt, notably in Luxor and the Valley of the Kings, and all my novels to a greater or lesser extent draw on my experiences excavating and living in Egypt and the Middle East. My main protagonist, Inspector Yusuf Khalifa of the Luxor Police, is a composite of a number of people I know, and while his colourful adventures are products purely of my imagination, the world he inhabits is very much a real one. Through Khalifa I try to explore issues such as terrorism, contemporary Middle East politics, religion and government corruption, all against a backdrop of the extraordinary history and archaeological heritage of that part of the world. 

This book was written in 2006 but is still very relevant today. It’s informative as well as entertaining and would make a great block buster movie. 
Paul Sussman’s love of the region and archaeology come across vividly. 

This is the synopsis: 
In 523 BC, the Persian emperor Cambyses dispatched an army across Egypt's western desert to destroy the oracle of Amun at Siwa. Legend has it that somewhere in the middle of the Great Sand Sea his army was overwhelmed by a sandstorm and destroyed. Fifty thousand men were lost.

Two and a half thousand years later a mutilated corpse is washed up on the banks of the Nile at Luxor, an antiques dealer is savagely murdered in Cairo, and an eminent British archaeologist is found dead at the ancient necropolis of Saqqara.

At first the incidents appear unconnected. Inspector Yusuf Khalifa of the Luxor police is suspicious, however. And so too is the archaeologist's daughter, Tara Mullray. As each seeks to uncover the truth, they find themselves thrown together in a desperate race for survival - one that forces them to confront not only present-day adversaries but also ghosts from their own pasts.

From a mysterious fragment of ancient hieroglyphic text to rumours of a fabulous lost tomb in the Theban Hills, from the shimmering waters of the Nile to the dusty backstreets of Cairo, Khalifa and Mullray are drawn ever deeper into a labyrinth of violence, intrigue and betrayal. It is a path that will eventually lead them into the forbidding, barren heart of the western desert, and the answer to one of the greatest mysteries of the ancient world . . .

This was an excellent début novel - full of suspense and twists and turns and the unexpected. It’s been described as “an adrenaline-packed thriller and a wonderfully evocative archaeological adventure.” It was sometimes a bit gory for my taste, but I would heartily recommend it.

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