Distinguishing fact from fabrication is about as complicated as the process of mummification to which this whole enterprise leads--an enterprise made doubly dubious by the unsavory details the authors have chosen to include. But before one reaches the removal of ""bits of brain matter through the nostrils"" and other embalming delights, there is the last fictional day of Ramose, onetime Grand Vizier of Egypt, to live through. He sets out across the Nile for the rock-chamber tomb in which his wife is already buried, and we flash back to the coronation of Thutmosis IV, father of Amenhotep III, whom Ramose will serve even after Amenhotep's odd son and (the authors believe) co-regent Akhenaten gives Egyptian tradition its celebrated jolt. Ramose steps ""off his boat onto the western bank of the Nile,"" and we learn the importance of the river's rising and falling; at the tomb, he joins the priests in a ceremony which ""recalled the rites that were said to have been performed for the god Osiris by his son Horus""--whereupon the legend of Isis and Osiris is retold at length. Once inside, Ramose watches and confers with the workmen (""The stonemasons were having problems""); home again, he eats ""without much appetite"" and, unknowing, lies down to die. That the reader was informed, on page one, that this was the day ""when Ramose. . . would die"" is only the first of the book's missteps; in attempting to squeeze Egyptian history, customs, art, and lore--as well as the mummification process--into a circumscribed and wholly artificial format, it produces a stuffed freak.