Best-selling author James Patterson has multiple manuscripts on the drawing board at any given time, but when he decided to write about King Tut, Patterson suspended all projects and teamed up with respected journalist Martin Dugard to craft this “nonfiction thriller” that aims to unravel an age-old mystery.
The Murder of King Tut: The Plot to Kill the Child King essentially divides into two alternating historical sections, with scenes shifting readily from 1492 B.C. (with the Tut lineage, life and death outlined) to the first decades of the 20th century, when excavator/Egyptologist par excellence Howard Carter finally discovered the young monarch’s elusive tomb. Patterson and Dugard exploit their own extensive research into the available historical facts, then extrapolate accordingly, coming to dramatic conclusions that fly in the face of some official speculations. The Tut story emerges as the fictionalized true-crime aspect of the book, while the accounts of the eccentric but determined Carter are based on more readily verifiable facts.
With a simple storytelling style that proves accessible whether focusing on the factual or fanciful, the authors effectively portray the exotic ancient world, including colorful insights into Tut’s brief reign and the soap-opera-like events of his rise and fall, especially as involves his stepmother Nefertiti and his marriage to his half-sister Ankhesenpaaten. The Carter story evokes the atmosphere of an Indiana Jones movie (but without the violence). Occasionally, Patterson interrupts his two-pronged tale to fill his readers in on certain elements of the writing and research process, these tidbits shedding some light on his passion for getting at the truth about Tut’s fate.
Patterson is due to return in November with a new Alex Cross novel; in the meantime, this deft blend of antiquity and whodunit should interest his many fans.
Martin Brady writes from Nashville.