The Lost Army Of Cambyses
Grove Press, May 2008, .$14.00, 573pp.
English zoologist Tara Mullray visits her renowned Egyptologist father Michael at a dig only to find her dad dead. At approximately the same time, a black market antiquities seller is also found dead with his mutilated corpse lying by the Nile covered with cigar burns. Inspector Yusuf Khalifa of the Luxor Police Department is assigned to investigate both homicides.
Because of the nature of their respective professions, two sides of the same coin, Yuseuf seeks a link between the murders. He quickly learns of a third facet when an elderly Cairo antiquities dealer is killed (with cigar burns on the body) in his shop, but nothing is stolen. Yuseuf interviews Tara who informs him that the excavation site where her father died contained the odor of cigar smoke. Soon the Egyptian and British politico take an interest in how much Yuseuf knows because terrorist Sayf al-Tha'r lingers in the background.
THE LOST ARMY OF CAMBYSES is a strong police procedural that interweaves archeological elements into the plot, but though engaging and educational never slows down the pace of the story line. The tale is at its luxurious best when Yuseuf investigates. The novel remains powerful even when the British embassy and the Egyptian Antiquities Bureau interfere with the inquiry due to a fear of Islamic Fundamentalist involvement. When the plot twists more into a thriller, it retains its excitement, but veers away from its prime theme of murder investigations at the Pyramids. Still this is a tremendous first dig into the mystery world by renowned archeologist Paul Sussman and hopefully he will provide more exciting tales for his faithful students.