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on 3 January 2014
This novel begins with two events that seem to be related only by geography; a group of Egyptian priests committing ritual suicide after transporting an unknown object to a secret place in the desert in the year 2153BC, and a plane-load of smugglers crashing over the same area in the 1980s. In the present, an American rock climber called Freya travels to Egypt for the funeral of her sister, a desert explorer from whom she has been estranged. She quickly becomes convinced that her sister's death is not all it seems, and the situation escalates when a Bedouin turns up with some objects that he found in the desert, swiftly followed by a helicopter-load of thugs who'll stop at nothing to get their hands on said objects.

The plot then shifts to Cairo where Freya teams up with an English archaeologist called Flin who has some secrets of his own, and from there things develop at speed, with car-chases, dramatic escapes, outlandish torture threats, espionage and some impromptu archaeological excavations. There's a supporting cast of Bedouin, CIA agents and an arms dealer whose henchmen are rather creative when it comes to killing people, and the subject-matter (always substantial in Paul Sussman novels) takes in the international arms trade, the underside of contemporary (albeit pre-Arab Spring) Cairo and the Iran-Iraq War as well as archaeology, Egyptian football teams and Ancient Egyptian myths and legends.

What with an archaeologist with a potentially dodgy past being one of the main protagonists, the feel here is very much that of a modern-day version of Raiders of the Lost Ark (that character's surname, Brodie, is an obvious nod to this). This was a superb read; if you've never read a Paul Sussman novel then you've been missing out. I love the detail, which really brings Egypt, and especially Cairo, to life. Heck, I even saw bits of the city I recognised from the only time I visited the place; at one point, the English archaeologist goes for a drink in the Windsor Hotel in downtown Cairo - I've been there myself, and I can confirm that Sussman's description of it is spot-on.
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on 18 June 2010
I like the author's writing, and I greatly enjoyed his two previous books. This is in many ways a bigger work, and displays his very deep and thorough knowledge of ancient Egypt, as well as being an exciting and compelling chase thriller as the hero searches for perhaps the most famous - or notorious - of Egypt's lost relics, the Benben stone. My problem is the ending, which is simply unbelievable on every level, almost descending into farce. This is both in terms of the hero's actions - having almost escaped from certain death in a collapsing valley, he then decides to run back into it to try to rescue somebody who minutes earlier ordered his execution, for no reason that makes the slightest bit of sense - and in what happens to the landscape, which is not simply unlikely but physically, geologically and geographically impossible. That was disappointing, hence only three stars.
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on 24 February 2010
I realise that my view is in the minority here but I found this book to be so unremittingly dire, turgid and tedious that I gave up after ploughing my way through about a third of it. After that I just couldn't face any more. I started out with high hopes, having read books which blended Ancient Egypt with modern adventure such as 'The Seventh Scroll' by Wilbur Smith - but just steer clear of 'The Quest' - did he really write this? I would have given Sussman's book to my local Oxfam shop but those people have suffered enough!
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on 15 March 2010
I enjoyed Sussman's last two novels with the Egyptian detective Khalifa, and it's a shame that he's not followed through with him (okay, he does make an appearance here, but he's not a main character).

So Sussman has to introduce us to new characters but spends far too long in plots and episodes and at over 600 pages the book is far too long. And I don't remember such cliched characters and events as depicted here.

Bring back Khalifa - there's more to develop here!
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on 9 February 2010
A thoroughly enjoyable read let down perhaps as other reviewers have mentioned by the last couple of chapters. Copied too much from adventure films. Having said that it is immensely readable, I read my copy in 3 days. The story is a bit contrived but there again what novel isn't? However there are plenty of plot twists and turns to keep the reader guessing... Good but not brilliant but better than most...
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on 8 October 2011
Having read Paul Sussman's two previous books featuring Inspector Yusuf Khalifa I was slightly disappointed to find that his latest didn't feature Khalifa, and unfortunately the disappointment didn't lift.

Whilst it is impossible to criticise Sussman's knowledge of ancient Egypt, the writing is at times turgid, and the graphic description of the violence unwarranted and unnecessary. I persevered with the story, but didn't identify or sympathise with the lead characters. If Sussman's next Egyptian novel is also minus Khalifa, I'll give it a miss.

If you are heavily into novels focusing on Egypt past and present, this may be for you, but otherwise...
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on 4 May 2011
I have enjoyed trmendously Paul Sussman's previous book, The Last Secret Of The Temple. I was looking forward to reading this and had set aside time to read it quickly. However, it is a great disappointment. Unlike his previous book, it is full of unnecessary swearing, unnecessary violence and too many coincidences to be believable. Examples of what I mean by coincidences being 'just in the nick of time', 'missed by inches', and countless tales of things happening when 'all is lost'. This is a continuing theme throughout the second half of the book. Also, if the end was not so dire, it would be laughable. Poor and disappointing.
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on 15 March 2010
This is the third Paul Sussman book I have read (the first two being The Lost Army of Cambyses and The Last Secret of the Temple both of which I thoroughly enjoyed) and I was not disappointed. The book starts in 2153BC in the Western Desert, Egypt and here we are given a brief, tantalising glimpse of the legend behind the Hidden Oasis....not too much so as to spoil the unfolding story but enough to whet the appetite for things to come. Secondly we have another brief glimpse of the past, this time Albania in 1968 with a plane taking off with a secret cargo that never reaches its destination. Again not too much is revealed. The rest of the book takes place in Egypt in the present day. Our main protagonists are Freya Hannen, a rock climbing, bit of a big mouth, feisty American who flies to Egypt to investigate the death of her sister and Flin Brodie a British Egyptologist. Other characters come and go throughout the story and there is a guessing game as to who is not all they seem. Mucho adventures follow the eventual meeting of these two culminating in a very exciting and surprising ending but of that I will say no more. Like his first two books this is pure escapism, well written with a page turning, unputdownable story. The desert descriptions, both the panorama and the native people are expertly described.... you feel you are there sitting in the sand, reading. The last couple of pages made me smile...happily...bad girl!! Great stuff!!
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on 1 March 2014
This is a brilliant story well written by Paul Sussman and well narrated. It takes a little getting into, but once you are in you have to keep listening to the edge of your seat last chapter. Highly recommend this book if you are an adventure reader.
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on 21 September 2016
love, love love this series of books, can't recommend highly enough!
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