Posts Tagged ‘history and mystery’

Review of ‘The Labyrinth of Osiris’ by Paul Sussman

August 8, 2018

The Labyrinth of Osiris by [Sussman, Paul]

This is a tremendous read. It is a whopping 744 pages long and after that there is a useful 20 page glossary. (Had I known it was there I might have referred to it during my reading of the book. It is not essential, but it is interesting.)

If you have an interest in Egyptology, and the modern Middle East (specifically Egypt and Israel) then this book was written for you. If you enjoy Dan Brown’s books but have no specific interest in the Middle East I believe you will still enjoy the ride.

Sussman’s grasp of the three Abrahamic religions in Jerusalem and Luxor, and elsewhere in Egypt and Israel, and their factions (Copts and Druze to name but two) is both wise and deep. Using that understanding, and his professional expertise in archaeology, he has woven this vast, labyrinthine book. His plotting is assured, his characters varied and complex. He leads the reader through his 744 pages without one ever losing one’s place in the scheme of things.

As the plot blossoms connections are made which span decades, then centuries. Eventually, what looked at first like a single murder in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem has grown to include a slew of bodies and an international conspiracy. The two main protagonists – Jewish policeman Alieh Ben-Roi and Egyptian policeman Yusuf Khalifa – have private lives filled with trouble. Indeed, trouble is everywhere: wells are poisoned, people get lost in life-threatening terrain. Politically, trouble is never far away either. Nevertheless, the Muslim and the Jew work well together, as they did in an earlier book by Sussman (which you don’t need to have read in order to enjoy this).

Sussman sets the book in 2012, the year he sadly died. Although 2012 is now six years in the past, and Middle Eastern politics are as fluid as water, many of the antagonisms in the region are as old as Abraham. I felt I had learned something about the ways of the Middle East from the reading of this book. I also learned plenty about Ancient Egypt (long an interest of mine). But the main grist of the book is a fascinating thriller.

Sussman only wrote four novels (plus one finished by other hands and published posthumously). His death (of an aneurysm at the age of 45) is a loss to the ‘history and mystery’ genre. This is work of superior quality. I read a lot in the genre and I have not come across a book as well written or plotted as this before.

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Review: Mona Lisa’s Secret by Phil Phillips

February 13, 2018

**Originally written for “BigAl’s Books and Pals” book blog. Received a free review copy.**

Mona Lisa's Secret: A Historical Fiction Mystery & Suspense Novel by [Philips, Phil]

Genre: History and mystery

Description: This book is described on Kindle as ‘A Historical Fiction Mystery & Suspense Novel Da Vinci Code meets Indiana Jones!’. There is plenty of room for good books in the ‘history and mystery’ genre. It gives nothing away to say that we are revisiting that most complex of Renaissance men, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Priory of Sion who are both guarding and leaving clues to an ancient secret.

Author: here is a link to the website of our Phil Phillips. http://philphilips.com/about-the-author/ (There is another Phil Phillips who writes for children: he is not our Phil Phillips). Our Phil Phillips lives in Sydney, Australia and his background is in digital graphic design. He considers himself a modern Renaissance man having an interest in ‘anything and everything’. He strives to create art in everything he does, be it a magazine layout, a painting in oils or writing a thriller. His writing style has, apparently, been compared to James Patterson and Matthew Reilly. He has published two books. Mona Lisa’s Secret is his second. The protagonist – Joey Peruggia – also carries the first book, but this book stands alone just fine.

Appraisal: the book follows Dan Brownian paths. There is plenty of violence (although fortunately nobody loses body parts: I parted company with Dan Brown at that point in The Lost Symbol). There is plenty of historical stitching holding the story together (the Mona Lisa really was stolen in 1911): familiarity with Dan Brown’s tropes is taken as read, but is easy enough to catch up with should you be a history and mystery fan who has never read Dan Brown (you may be the only one …). The action moves from luxury in Los Angeles, to Paris, to the Jura mountains to Cyprus and back to Paris: the author has been to these places and takes pains to spice his scenes with local flavour.

There is plenty of meat to the plot, which is based on some fascinating historical facts with some whopping great ‘what ifs’ added. Who does not enjoy a good ‘what if’? The bigger the better!

There are a few unfocussed and/or unnecessary descriptive passages; the violence becomes a little wearying for this reader (although the hero’s escapes are most inventive); and a number of small tautologies (eg ‘the sink basin’) irritate slightly. There are a couple of plot holes. And I can just imagine what my Cypriot friends would say if they heard Cyprus described as ‘a small Greek island’ (we Europeans view the Med rather differently).

Despite the occasional fuzzy focus, the book gallops along like a horse just on the right side of bolting.

FYI: a fair amount of swearing.

Rating: ****

Approximate page count: 374pp

(for some reason I’m having trouble inserting Amazon links. I’ll let you know when that’s sorted out.)

 

 

 


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