Oehler (Aphrodesia, 2012) delivers a fusion of mainstream thriller and historical fiction, reminiscent of The Da Vinci Code.
This engaging thriller’s narrative intertwines two distinct storylines. The first thread chronicles the last days of Queen Tiye, wife of Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep III, as she prepares her secret burial chamber in her ancestral homeland of Nubia. Tiye, a devoted worshipper of the sun god Aten and an architect of “one of the greatest revolutions in history,” is not only preparing herself and her youngest son, Tutankhamen, for their deaths, but also their glorious resurrections. The second thread follows Rika Teferi, a former soldier in Eritrea’s bloody war for independence from Ethiopia now doing doctoral research as a scholar at the Cairo Museum, as she attempts to translate Tiye’s final message to Tutankhamen. A fateful accident, involving a cup of tea spilled on an invaluable papyrus by American scientist David Chamberlain, leads them both to a discovery that could change the course of history—and possibly cost them their lives. The novel is powered by intriguing scientific speculation, breathtaking locales, vivid description and references to Egyptian mythology. But while the plot is impressively knotty, the characters well-developed and the action virtually nonstop, some aspects of the story may strike readers as a bit contrived: The romantic relationship between Teferi and Chamberlain, for example, seems forced, and some twists at the end of the novel strain the boundaries of believability. That said, readers who enjoy intelligent, pedal-to-the-metal thrillers will find this archaeological escapade highly satisfying.
Fast and fun, if slightly flawed, literary escapism.