Howard Carter, the never-say-die, field-trained archaeologist who discovered King Tut's tomb in 1922, is well known to have been an awkward, self-destructive loner. Was he also a liar, a thief, and a full-fledged madman? So contends the Metropolitan Museum's former chief, Thomas Hoving, who retells the story of the hard-won unearthing of the tomb and its treasures, stressing Carter's hopeless lack of diplomacy and using ""new evidence"" from the Met archives to make the following specific accusations: 1) Carter and his sponsor Lord Carnavon did not, as they claimed, examine only the outer antechamber on their first, unofficial exploration of the tomb, but rather all the chambers (hiding their entry hole with a basket lid); 2) Carter and Carnavon not only practiced ""art dealing of a rather cutthroat and questionable variety"" but also spirited numerous Tut items out of Egypt--some of them now in the Metropolitan--and Carter's biggest attempted theft was detected and then covered up, with help from the Met; 3) Carter's unbalanced, combative behavior in dealing with Egyptian/ French authorities was largely responsible for the end of friendly conditions for archaeologists in Egypt. Unfortunately, Hoving's readable but limp presentation of this provocative material results in neither the blockbuster exposÃ‰ intended nor the gripping psychological drama that might have been. His pro-Met, anti-Carter stance is so intense, his prissy obsession with the benefits of good P-R so complete, that one is never convinced that Carter is getting a fair shake. More surprisingly, the prose is Jack-and-Jill naive (""unbelievable"" is the favorite adjective), with descriptions of the treasures falling back on the most gee-whiz clichÃ‰s. Still, the oft-told story is surefire magic every time around, especially with Tut on tour, and the would-be scandal--however blown out of proportion or unpersuasively presented--adds just enough razzmatazz to make golden King Tut and poor old Carter a compelling combination once again.