TALES OF A DEAD KING by Walter Dean Myers



Rudimentary skulduggery on an Egyptian archaeological dig--for kids who take to Myers' no-frills storytelling, simple set-ups, and good sense. Teens John Robie and Karen Lacey find themselves at a seedy Aswan hotel--with only a mysterious note to explain the absence of Dr. Erich Leonhardt, John's unknown archaeologist great-uncle. Egyptian-enthusiast John, less put-out than archaeology-buff Karen, is more inclined to stick around; he also gives a thought to the family connection. But signs that "someone doesn't want us hanging around" keep stubborn smartie Karen on the spot too. The enusing one-upmanship between the two, conveyed with a shade of self-mocking rue from John's viewpoint, is the story's strongest feature--though Myers does craftily manage a tie-in with the Tutankhamun show (supposed source of John's interest) and with some basic Egyptology: the unknown site of monotheist Akhenaton's modest burial. John guesses that the nonexistent ship Sibuna, mentioned in Dr. Leonhardt's letter, stands for Anubis, the Egyptian god of the underworld--meaning that somebody was after, him. Karen reasons from his note-paper (never mind, flimsily, how) that the professor is still around; she remembers that "an Ahmed somebody" was said to have been helping him; she deduces from a letter that the professor had been set back by not receiving a grant from the University of Chicago--hence his need for the two of them. But--John and Karen, together: Didn't the professor's search sound like Tutankhamun-tomb-finder Howard Carter's reference to "the last great mystery of the period"--i.e., the site of Akhenaton's burial? Didn't Akhenaton have Nubian connections, from around Aswan? Isn't the elusive Ahmed supposed to be a Nubian? Dr. Leonhardt is found, the tomb properly isn't--and had it been, the professor notes, it would have held no treasure: the greedy kidnappers had nothing to gain. As for John and Karen, a little real archaeological work is in the offing. "I'd really dig that," says John--(almost) bringing down the curtain on a consciously, likably corny note. Unlike more strenuous efforts, the one grows on you by degrees.
Pub Date: Oct. 12th, 1983
ISBN: 0153003758
Page count: 89pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1983


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