on 19 July 2012
I've read all his books, and they are all brilliant - but this is the best one yet.
It is a proper page-turner. Lots of different plot lines weaved superbly together into the perfect summer holiday read -a murder in Jerusalem's Armenian quarter, police, poisoned wells, reclusive investigative journalist, trafficked prostitutes and the Russian mafia.
Knocks the socks off the last book that I read - Fifty Shades of Grey....
on 20 January 2013
This is the third book in a series of thrillers involving Egyptian detective Yusuf Khalifa. Sadly, this is also the final book written by fantastic author, Paul Sussman, who tragically passed away mid 2012. I had only just discovered the works of Mr Sussman and after reading "The Lost Army of Cambyses", "The Last Secret of the Temple" and finally "The Labyrinth of Osiris", I can honestly say that his passing is been a tragic loss to the literary world.
This series of books just got better with each instalment. TLOO, as with the others, is jam packed full of interesting, believable characters who draw you in so cleverly that you almost feel you know the person. In addition, right from the very first pages, the scene is set, different events taking place at different periods in history and all the while you know that these seemingly unconnected events are intertwined somehow. As you go through the book you become detective yourself, piecing together the numerous clues and bits of info - working out the most likely scenario. But as is the genius of Paul Sussman, don't for one minute think you will have it cracked. You can rest assured that just when you think you have the whole thing worked out something will happen that will turn your thoughts upside down.
Now I have finished this book I don't know where to go for an equally thrilling read. I love this genre, especially with the Egyptian setting. I have read all the Scott Mariani books plus ones by John Lyman, Simon Toyne and Alex Connor. If anyone can suggest another cracking read in a similar vein! I would be very grateful.
on 25 July 2012
This is a completely brilliant book. All his books are great but this one takes it up a level. For those who haven't read him before, start with Lost Army of Cambyses, follow it with The Last Secret of the Temple and save this one till last. But if you have already read the others buy this immediately - it won't disappoint, you won't want it to end but you won't be able to put it down. The story is incredibly moving, the characters so well drawn that you live and breath with them. You will definitely end up raving about it to everyone you know.
This is a truly excellent story. Because I thoroughly enjoyed Paul Sussman's previous stories I automatically bought this when it was first published. I've put off reading it until now because I liked having a sure treat to look forward to and also I knew, due to the sad and untimely death of the author, that there would be no further adventures featuring the excellent detective Khalifa.
The writing is, as always, first class and the characters so well developed that you feel their pain. The plot is complex and fast paced with few, if any, dull moments. In short, it is one of those books you can't wait to get back to when you are forced to put it down...highly recommended.
There are some authors whose work I am unable to wait for patiently. The days stretch on and the publication seems as distant as ever until finally it's so close you hit refresh on Amazon repeatedly to check the status of your preorder. Paul Sussman is one of these writers.
It's difficult to know how to classify his novels - of which there have now been four. Ostensibly, they're thrillers and archaeological quests but that doesn't sum them up. The thriller aspect is almost incidental despite the books being as pageturnery as you could desire. Instead, in The Labyrinth of Osiris, Sussman presents us with a portrait of two great cities - Jerusalem and Luxor - that is so enriched with the sights, smells, sounds and prayers of these most charismatic and complex of places, that you know you are reading the words of a man, both journalist and archaeologist, who knows them inside out. Paul Sussman understands these cities; his characters, Arieh Ben-Roe a detective in Jerusalem and Yusuf Khalifa a policeman in Luxor, are utterly real. As an archaeologist myself, who lived for some time in Jerusalem and the deserts of Israel and frequently travelled to Egypt, The Labyrinth of Osiris brings it all flooding back.
The Labyrinth of Osiris was well worth the wait and, while I would recommend that you read the previous three books as well (The Lost Army Of Cambyses,The Last Secret Of The Temple and The Hidden Oasis), this one stands alone as Sussman's masterpiece.
Characters come and go in Sussman's novels but Khalifa and Ben-Roe are men we have met before and here are reunited in an investigation, five years after one saved the life of the other. During these five years events have moved on for our two policeman - Ben-Roe is now an expectant father, making all the mistakes that he wishes he wouldn't make, while Khalifa is dealing with a family tragedy that has sliced into his heart. Both of them have to cope with police systems that aren't always conducive to good detection. Distinctly cool relations between their two nations don't help, but Khalifa and Ben-Roe have a bond that cuts through religious and cultural differences. Both men are also extraordinarily brave and immensely likeable and it is such a pleasure to make their re-acquaintance on such perfectly written pages.
The mystery at the heart of The Labyrinth of Osiris is not straightforward, as no mystery in a Paul Sussman novel is. While its origins lie in an ancient Egyptian gold mine, lost in the eastern desert, its ramifications are far more extensive. Beginning with the murder of a `difficult' journalist in an Armenian Cathedral in Jerusalem, the investigations unearth a network of crime and abuse, covering the full strata of Near Eastern and Western society and business and encompassing the world's oldest sins.
The Labyrinth of Osiris is possibly the least `archaeological thrillery' of Sussman's novels. Instead, it is a penetrating and deeply emotional portrait of two men, so different in a multitude of ways, but who are brought together in the cruellest of circumstances. The secrets they uncover are not easy to stomach. Both men put their lives in danger and both are prepared to do anything for what is right and to find justice for the many unfortunates they encounter, including some very close to home. But there is also humour, warmth and vitality and the novel is full of life. Luxor and Jerusalem are wonderfully realised, both the tourist version and the other.
The story is excellent. It is such an exciting novel. It is also a substantial one. The Labyrinth of Osiris is one of those books that rewards a slow reading. You won't want to take it too quickly - Arieh and Yusuf are men you want to get to know. There are others too who fill the pages and the result is rich, luxurious, sometimes frightening, even terrifyingly claustrophobic, and you'll find it very hard to put down.
How devastating, then, that Paul Sussman should have died in May this year, aged just 45, only weeks before the publication of The Labyrinth of Osiris. It is a marvellous novel, one he was understandably proud of, but, when you close the final page, reeling from its revelations, there is great sorrow in knowing that there can be no more, not least because the last is so remarkable. The loss is immense.
Before reviewing this book I want to pay tribute to Paul Sussman who sadly past away. I was shocked when learning this. He was such a gifted writer and
will be very much missed. I hope that his wife and young children will get through this difficult time. I am sure that in their hearts as husband and father he will not be forgotten, but as well millions of his readers he will be remembered thorugh his writing. And if it is a consolation not many can say this about their husband and father. Thank you Paul!
As the previous reviewers I can only share their praise of this thriller. It is a page turner, not one page is boring, one is sucked into the story. There are great descriptions of situations (like the one in the Labyrinth)- one can really feel it. It has the right mix between action, descriptions and an enormous emphaty for the subjects. In short: all one wants from a great read!
on 25 January 2013
Paul Sussman's fourth and final thriller excels even his own earlier works. First drawn to this author when trawling through Amazon for books in the archaeological/religious thriller genre, I came across "The Last Secret of the Temple" which is still one of my favourites, and subsequently bought his other two books before this one. They are all excellent, well-crafted, intelligent stories; but 'The Labyrinth of Osiris' is in my opinion, his greatest novel. Revolving around the death of an investigative journalist, the narrative takes us from the Armenian compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, to the Negev Desert and across the border to the Egyptian desert east of the Nile, the Egyptian and Israeli angles dovetailing very nicely together until they combine at pace. Character development is strong and well-developed and storylines range from thought-provoking to heart-stopping to tear-jerking. The friendship between Khalifa (the moslem Egyptian detective) and Ben-Roi (the Israeli, jewish detective) is perhaps a symbol of hope in a region torn apart by religious, cultural and national conflict and the story seems to suggest that later on. I like the way that Sussman even takes a poke at himself in the first paragraph on p139 (paperback). As this was very sadly Sussman's last work before his death, I wanted to savour it and read it slowly over a week; but the quality of the writing made this very difficult and I read it in three days, I was so drawn in, even weeping myself in its' last pages. This is a magnificent book, a superb detective thriller and a wonderful legacy from a good man.
on 3 January 2014
There are various ways by which one can hear that an author that you like has died. Sometimes, you read a short article about his or her passing in the paper on the way to work. Sometimes there will be something on the Today programme. In one case I have received notification of a favourite writer's death by email because I subscribe to a website devoted to his works.
In the case of Paul Sussman, however, notification was received by way of picking up a copy of his fourth and (as it turns out) last novel, The Labyrinth of Osiris, in a charity shop and noting from the author blurb that he died in 2012. He was 46.
I only came across Paul Sussman by chance a few years ago after working my way through a thriller by another writer that, although OK in itself, appeared to have been written with a view to cashing in on the success of The Da Vinci Code (it concerned a secret about the early history of Christianity which was being concealed by the Vatican, who were in cahoots with the Mafia). At the end of the book was an advert - on the lines of `if you liked this, you might enjoy this' - for another author who shared the same publisher. Intrigued, I looked for it in my local library and thus did I find The Last Secret of the Temple by Paul Sussman.
It was a superb read - a refreshingly intelligent, complex and fast-paced thriller that combined a murder investigation, archaeology, the Nazis and the present-day conflict in the Middle East. There was not one protagonist but two, both of them more believable than Professor Langdon. Both were cops, one Egyptian (Yusuf Khalifa of the Luxor police) and the other Israeli (Jerusalem-based Arieh Ben-Roi), and they ended up being forced to work together to uncover a secret that could hold the key to peace in the Middle East. The novel looked even-handedly at serious issues such as racial hatred, religious fanaticism, morality and power, and did so without resorting to bias, sentimentality or treating the reader like an idiot.
Sadly, I didn't follow this up with any more Paul Sussman's books as they did not appear to be on the library list and his wasn't a name that was readily available on the shelves of WH Smith's. But when I saw that copy of The Labyrith of Osiris, I knew that I had to buy it.
Do you know what? It's brilliant.
The story begins eighty years ago when a man disappears near Luxor, his body being found in the early 1970s. It then jumps to a murder of an investigative journalist in present-day Jerusalem - in the Armenian Cathedral of all places. Arieh Ben-Roi starts to investigate, and it's not long before he contacts his old friend in Luxor to ask for some assistance from the Egyptian end. Yusuf Khalifa, meanwhile, has been trying to investigate some mysterious well-poisonings out in the desert while trying to come to terms with a family tragedy.
At just over 750 pages, it's a big book and Sussman didn't flinch from dealing with some big issues. Over the course of their investigations (which are of course connected), Ben-Roi and Khalifa encounter sex-trafficking, anti-capitalist protests (both of the online and direct-action varieties), cover-ups and multi-national corporations acting as though they're above the law. On a more personal level, the demands of family life and the enduring power of friendship feature heavily. There are so many threads that at times you'll wonder how they're all going to come together.
And there's history, of course - the novel is littered with references to ancient Pharaohs and the Arab-Israeli conflict (although this isn't as central a theme as it was in The Last Secret of the Temple), and the likes of Herodotus and Howard Carter briefly get drawn into the plot. Then there's the litany of Arabic and Hebrew slang that requires a glossary at the back.
As well as this, Sussman treats the reader to portraits of two great cities - Jerusalem and Luxor - both depictions going beyond what the tourists see and showing us what life is like for the people who actually live there, in stark contrast to some thrillers set in interesting locations that seem to have copied a lot of the descriptive stuff from a guidebook (as he worked on archaeological digs in the Valley of the Kings, Sussman's take on the redevelopment of Luxor in recent years is particularly interesting).
The pace was unrelenting, although as I got to within a hundred pages of the end I felt the need to slow down as I didn't want the story to end. It's a novel that requires time for the reader to absorb everything, but it's also one that you just can't put down.
If you're looking for some intelligent holiday reading this year, I really cannot recommend this book highly enough.
on 15 March 2013
I have read all four of Paul Sussman's books - in the order they were written - and it has been interesting to observe the development of his writing skills. All the books have been enjoyable in their own way but 'The Labyrinth of Osiris' stands head and shoulders above the rest. It is not a book for casual reading. You can't pick it up and put it down over too long a time span, because (if you are anything like me) you could easily lose meaningul contact with the many complex story threads. However, having said that, it is a very satisfying book to read. Paul Sussman obviously knows Egypt and Israel well and his archeological expertise shines through. The contrasting characters of the Egyptian and Israeli Detectives are well drawn and I particularly like the writing style, where the action shifts from one locale to another in short punchy chapters. It is tragic that Paul Sussman died so young, just after the completion of this novel, when his talent appeared to have reached full-flowering. At least he has left us with something worthwhile to remember him by.
on 23 December 2013
I love books that are a bit different. Here, an Arab and an Israeli work together. One of the things I liked about this was that there were a number of apparently unlinked stories that came together in an unexpected way at the end. Gripping, with characters i liked. How sad that the author died young. I am glad The Times ran a story about this and brought be to his book.