The Egyptologist by Arthur Phillips

The only book that I can compare The Egyptologist to would be one of my other all-time favorites, The Prestige. Both of these books are supremely well-executed exercises in the unreliable narrator. As with The Prestige, The Egyptologist consists entirely of either journal entries or letters written to and from the main characters of the novel. This lack of knowledge given to the reader ends up making the entire novel a crazy thrill-ride where you, the reader, are called upon to make your own judgments about what is really happening. There is no simple point in the book where some omniscient narrator tells you what happened. There are at least two people constantly telling you different versions of the same story, and you are left wondering who to believe.

Ralph Trilipush is an aspiring archaeologist with a sordid, mysterious past. Ralph is the discoverer of what appears to be ancient Egyptian pornography: The Admonitions of Atum-hadu. Atum-hadu is thought to be a pharaoh that never existed, but Ralph isn’t so sure that he wasn’t a real king. So Ralph sets out to Egypt to uncover the tomb of Atum-hadu. Meanwhile, back in Boston where Ralph’s fiancee and creditors are waiting for him, Harry Ferrell, a private detective who came on to this case through an entirely different case, is starting to suspect Trilipush of foul play, and voices his concerns to involved parties, which starts a chain of events leading to a mind-blowing conclusion.

The Egyptologist is truly everything one could want in a novel. Great characters, interesting plot and great writing. Throughout the entire book, Phillips maintains a darkly comic tone to all these events, especially in the journals of Ralph Trilipush. But once the reader reaches the final climax of the book, the last 40 pages are some of the spookiest, most disturbing that I have ever read.

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