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Mysteries set in Ancient Egypt

Historical Mysteries

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1aprillee
Feb 12, 2008, 8:54am Top

What mysteries have you read that are set in Ancient Egypt? Which would you recommend and why?

There are a number of series out there. One I enjoyed, but that seems to be on hiatus for a while (perhaps confounded by the recent discoveries about Nefertiti???) are the Lord Meren mysteries by Lynda S. Robinson, set in the reign of Tutankhamun--
Murder in the Place of Anubis
Murder at the God's Gate
Murder at the Feast of Rejoicing
Eater of Souls
Drinker of Blood
Slayer of Gods

Another long-running series is by Lauren Haney, with Lt. Bak of the Medjay police force, set in the 18th Dynasty under Hatshepsut--
The Right Hand of Amon
A Face Turned Backwards
A Vile Justice
A Curse of Silence
A Place of Darkness
A Cruel Deceit
Flesh of the God --a prequel to the series
Path of Shadows

There is P. C. Doherty's series, with Amerotke, the chief judge of Thebes, under Hatusu (Hatshepsut)--
The Mask of Ra
The Horus Killings
The Anubis Slayings
Slayers of Seth
Assassins of Isis

Brad Geagley's first book, with reinstated clerk of Investigations and Secrets, Semerket, set in the time of Ramses III--
Year of the Hyenas

What other books and authors are there out there?

How do you think they handle the period details?

How good are the mysteries?

Which main characters are your favorites?

Please post and discuss anything even remotely to do with Ancient Egypt and Mysteries. Or perhaps even cover some mysteries that only partially involve Ancient Egypt--maybe like the Amanda Peabody series.

2SJaneDoe
Edited: Feb 12, 2008, 9:17am Top

Agatha Christie's Death Comes as the End takes place in Ancient Egypt. It seems like a lot of people don't like it, but I did....

3readafew
Feb 12, 2008, 9:40am Top

Akhnaton by Agatha Christie is a murder mystery that takes place in Ancient Egypt. I thought it was pretty good.

4lmedgerton
Feb 16, 2008, 12:36pm Top

I have read the entire Linda S. Robinson series and I understand that she could not find a publisher to continue the series. I believe that the same is true of Lauren Haney. I really like both of them. I also like the Amerotke series, I find the scenes with his dwarf servant very funny.

I have not had occasion to read Brad Geagley, but I would like to.

Another series that deals with ancient Egypt is Anton Gill's Huy the Scribe. There are three of them but I have not read any of them yet. I have the second one in the series in my TBR stack, and will report back when I finish it.

The Amelia Peabody mysteries are good, I like the earlier ones better for some unknown reason. I will have to figure it out.

5aprillee
Feb 22, 2008, 4:13am Top

d2vge and readafew--I had no idea Agatha Christie wrote mysteries that too place in Ancient Egypt! I'd read her Death on the Nile of course... but that's not Ancient Egypt... Interesting!

Imedgerton-- That's too bad that Robinson and Haney couldn't find publishers for their series!

6lmedgerton
Feb 23, 2008, 11:19pm Top

I forgot that P.C. Doherty also has another series set in ancient Egypt set during the time of Akhenaten.

Nick Drake also has a book out called Nefertiti and there is another one that is supposed to come out by him this year that continues that series.

(I have read this one and it was quite good, another take on Nefertiti, different from that of Linda S. Robinson).

Lee Levin had one that came out about 10 or 15 years that was something like King Tut's Private Eye.

I think it was Ray Nelson that wrote a mystery that was set in 1st century AD in Roman Egypt.

7dragonsign
Jun 7, 2008, 6:12pm Top

I have read several of the P.C.Doherty series and also the Lord Meren series, but in the last couple of years have been unable to find the Lord Meren books. Has Robinson stopped writing this series? I really would like to read more; enjoy the historical aspect of the books. Any input on this from anyone?

dragonsign

8cosmicdolphin
Jun 21, 2008, 9:26am Top

I recently noticed that Anton Gill had written 3 'Raymond Chandler' style mysteries set in Ancient Egypt:

City of the Horizon,City of Dreams, and City of the Dead

Has anyone read these?

Rich

9FicusFan
Edited: Aug 1, 2008, 4:14pm Top

Yes, I have read Anton Gill's whole series.

They are not bad, in fact you could say they were good, but they weren't great. It may be the tone of his writing. He seems detached, so that there isn't the vibrant feeling that you get from say the best historical mysteries: The Lindsey Davis, Falco mysteries set in ancient Rome.

The series got better for me as it went along. I read them one after the other, and though they were good, it wasn't a series where I was sad when it was over. Your mileage may vary.

Gill's books are meaty though and for me better than either Haney or Robinson, whom I consider to be 'lite'.

The series by P.C (Paul) Doherty: Amerotke, the chief judge of Thebes, under Hatshepsut

Has a 6th book The Poisoner of Ptah, though I think it is only available in the UK. Mine is on the way.

The books in Doherty's Egyptian Pharaoh Trilogy are:

An Evil Spirit out of the West
The Season of the Hyaena
The Year of the Cobra

They too I think are only published in the UK.

Doherty also has a non-fiction book called The Mysterious Death of Tutankhamun, mine is from the UK, so I don't know if it was published here or not. Bob Brier has a book about it also called: The Murder of Tutankhamen which is available in the US. He also has a fabulous book about Egyptian mummies and how they were made Egyptian Mummies: Unraveling the Secrets of an Ancient Art.

Brad Geagley's second book: The Day of the False King is set in ancient Iraq, but has the same main character the Egyptian Semerket. He is sent to Iraq on a secret mission. I think this book is even better than the first.

Carol Thurston has a book called The Eye of Horus which is split between modern day, and ancient Egypt. It is about a mysterious artifact (mummy) that the moderns in a museum are studying, and the ancient part is what happened to her.

Other Ancient Egyptian Books

Pauline Gedge is probably the queen of Ancient Egyptian writing, though the books are not considered mysteries:

Child of the Morning (The Hera Series) about Hatshepsut

About the end of the Hyksos rule and the rise of the 18th dynasty:
The hippopotamus Marsh Lord of the Two Lands: Volume 1
The Oasis: Lords of the Two Lands: Volume 2
The Horus Road: Lords of the Two Lands: Volume 3

The twelfth transforming : a novel about Ankhenaten

Set during Ramses III, the main character is Thu who ends up in his harem
House of illusions : a novel
House of dreams

Scroll of Saqqara aka Mirage about the first archaeologist and a magician who finds a scroll and mistakenly invokes a spell, with terrible consequences.

Of course all of Christian Jacq's books. Some books are better than others because they are translated into English.

Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz has 3 books about ancient Egypt:

Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth A Novel - reads like an investigation
Thebes at War
The Wisdom of Khufu

J.Suzanne Frank or Suzanne Frank has a time travel romance series where the two main characters keep changing time periods. The first book starts in the modern day and the switches to ancient Egypt. It is called Reflections in the Nile. It is lite and fluffy, and a bit pink, but not bad.

Judith Tarr has several books set in Egypt. She writes as though the magic and gods of the ancient world were real, so some don't like the 'fantasy' element.

Throne of Isis by Judith Tarr, about Cleopatra
Lord of Two Lands by Judith Tarr, about Alexander in Egypt
Pillar of Fire by Judith Tarr, about Ankhenaten
King and Goddess by Judith Tarr, about Hatshepsut

A series about the Hyksos (her version), who invade Egypt

White Mare's Daughter by Judith Tarr
Lady of Horses by Judith Tarr
Daughter of Lir by Judith Tarr
The Shepherd Kings by Judith Tarr

Series by Wilbur Smith
River God
Seventh Scroll Modern/Ancient - Thriller
Warlock: A Novel of Ancient Egypt

The Book of the Dead by Douglas Preston
King of Egypt, King of Dreams by Gwendolyn MacEwen, About Ankhenaten

The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George
When we were gods : a novel of Cleopatra by Colin Falconer

Cleopatra series:
Kleopatra by Karen Essex
Pharaoh by Karen Essex

Cleopatra's heir by Gillian Bradshaw - What if Caesarion survived ?
Khai of Khem by Brian Lumley SF take on Ancient Egypt
Men of Bronze by Scott Oden - the death of Pharaonic Egypt and the occupation of the Persians

The third translation by Matt Bondurant. Mostly modern, but about mysterious Hieroglyphs/artifact from Egypt.

The Ptolemies Quartet - Not Completed, about the Macedonian rulers of Egypt
The Ptolemies by Duncan Sprott
Daughter of the Crocodile (Ptolemies Quartet) by Duncan Sprott

Edited to Fix the Bold which continued on forever.

10AlaMich
Aug 1, 2008, 12:16pm Top

I can second the recommendation for Brad Geagley; I loved both his books. I have not heard whether any more are on the horizon, unfortunately.

I couldn't get into P.C. Doherty....I just didn't like his writing style. Maybe I'll try again one of these days.

Ficus, I'll be adding some of your recommendations to my TBR list. Thanks for the truly impressive post!!

11FicusFan
Aug 1, 2008, 4:11pm Top


Thank you, hope you enjoy the books.

On Brad Geagley: I talked to him (email) maybe a year ago. He was at the publishing house that had Michael Korda as a big time editor. Korda was forced out and those under him were also canned. One of the them was Geagley's editor, so no more books.

He has an agent, and the agent suggested that he not write another book of Egyptian mystery because he would get pigeon-holed as only doing one thing. I think Geagley said he had the story arc mapped out for up to 7 books or so, and did want to continue at some point.

He was working on a novel about Cleopatra, as his next project. Haven't emailed him recently, and don't know if he is still working on the book, or if he is done, and just trying to get it published.

Updates on the books

The series by Wilbur Smith has a 4th book which I missed:

The Quest

And through the Tag Watch on the home page I found there are two more books from Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz about ancient Egypt:

Rhadopis of Nubia
Voices from the Other World: Ancient Egyptian Tales

both of which I have ordered.

Also:
Nefertiti by Moran
Nefertiti: The Book of the Dead by Drake

Both are good, though with some problems, and both have a second book coming that follows the story in the first book.

12AlaMich
Aug 1, 2008, 6:24pm Top

I read Moran's Nefertiti, and thought it was just okay. I felt like I was reading the same scene over and over between Mutny and Nefertiti.

Hopefully, Brad Geagley will disregard his agent's advice about being pigeonholed. Isn't that what series writers do, write multiple books with the same setting? Seems like sort of silly advice to me.

13FicusFan
Aug 1, 2008, 9:16pm Top



I thought the writing in Moran's book was better, and she sucked me right in. I felt a certain high-school-ishness to the book because their outlook (Mutny, Nefer, Ankhenaten), expectations, and behavior were often so trivial and over the top emotionally, over minor stuff.

I suspect the advice was because he was just starting out, and lost his place. Perhaps there isn't a big market for historical fiction mysteries that aren't blockbusters? I think Robinson and Haney have had to stop too.

But I agree its sad. Publishers probably don't want to wait for a series and a following to develop anymore. Now is 1-3 books and if you aren't a best seller its out the door.

14dragonsign
Aug 16, 2008, 5:26pm Top

I found a series by Christian Jacq, can't remember where! They are set in the time of Rameses. So far 6 books; Ramses: The Son of Light, Ramses: The Eternal Temple, Ramses: The Battle of Kadesh, Ramses: The Lady of Abu Simbel, Ramses: Under the Western Acacia, Ramses: The Temple of a Million Years.
Has anyone read any of these? I have yet to start the series, but am interested from reviews I have read.

dragonsign

15aprillee
Oct 23, 2008, 12:34am Top

RE: Lord Meren books-- I believe Robinson got dropped by her publisher, which is why the series suddenly stopped.

FicusFan-- Great List!!! Thanks!

16Storeetllr
Oct 24, 2008, 11:09pm Top

Hi, dragon ~ Sorry, I must have missed your post. I read the first two of the Ramses series by Jacq. The first one was a few years ago, and I remember enjoying it a lot. The second was a few months ago, and I didn't enjoy it quite as much as I expected. The writing isn't really great, though perhaps that's the translator's fault.

Have you gone ahead and read any of them? If so, what did you think?

17orsolina
May 1, 2009, 1:33am Top

If P.C. Doherty has actually done any research on ancient Egypt, it does not show. He could not be bothered to find an Egyptian personal name for his detective; many details are simply wrong; and his depiction of Egyptian court life is, to put it mildly, bizarre. I can't believe these got published, especially when so many authors are having trouble getting their books accepted.

Lauren Haney is a bit better. Her idea of featuring an "MP" in Nubia is great, but I don't think her prose captures the reader's attention very well (it doesn't capture mine, anyway). She's done some reading, but apparently in out-of-date books, and I think she's been influenced by other novelists. At some point, one of her characters says, or thinks to himself, that no Egyptian army had been seen in Nubia for twenty years--this during the coregency of Hatshepsut and Thutmose III! That was enough to make me stop reading right there. Also, in one story, the Steward of Amun and Overseer of Works Senenmut puts in a cameo appearance, and the other characters talk about him as though he's--well, rather dim. He's one of the last figures from Egyptian history that I would describe as dim!

I've finished two or three of Robinson's books, and they're a bit over the top, but fun to read when battling a cold or recovering from deadline stress. Like many novelists who choose Egypt as a setting, Robinson goes in for a good deal of melodrama and portrays Egypt under Akhenaten as a sort of cross between Stalinist Russia and Spain of the Inquisition. I don't think much of Akhenaten, but that's a little harsh!

Pauline Gedge used a real Egyptian story as the basis for Mirage, but she turned a rather sympathetic set of characters into monsters. Read "Setna" in one of the Egyptian literature collections available (I recommend Miriam Lichtheim) and compare.

Unfortunately, I can't think of any books set in ancient Egypt that I can wholeheartedly recommend. Even those that are well-written from the standpoint of prose style, even those that have exciting plots, get a lot of details wrong (Eighteenth Dynasty Egyptians did not use coins, for example, or breed goldfish) and needlessly sensationalize history. We can only wait and hope.

18aprillee
May 21, 2009, 4:59am Top

Fascinating, orsolina! I have never read anything scholarly on the period, so I can't catch any of these sorts of errors, although I had the sense of Robinson being a bit over the top (she also wrote romances and the mysteries had a bit of that feel), and Haney being a bit more realistic, but with dryer prose.

There's a great deal of interest in ancient Egypt but very little thorough studies are made, most people only know what's presented in popular culture. It seems to me a quickly changing field of knowledge, to some extent, since there are actually new things being found (even if in the depths of old collections in Cairo or elsewhere) that shed new or a different light upon events and life in the times.

It's too bad that there isn't a series that gets it quite right yet, but maybe someday!?

Can you recommend any good NF books on ancient Egypt?

19orsolina
May 21, 2009, 1:55pm Top

Hi, aprillee. There are now many good books available on different periods of Egyptian history and various aspects of Egyptian culture, although some subjects are still relatively neglected (at least in terms of books you'd find in a public library). Look for recent catalogues of museum exhibitions; they often have up-to-date background articles by prominent scholars. Pharaohs of the Sun covers the Amarna period, for example, and Hatshepsut: from Queen to Pharaoh will be a good start if you're interested in the Queen. Surprise, surprise: she wasn't the original wicked stepmother, or even the model for Bertie Wooster's Aunt Agatha!
Aidan Dodson has written a number of popular books, which you should be able to find without too much trouble. Salima Ikram did a good introduction to mummies, with many intriguing illustrations. Richard Wilkinson has written several copiously illustrated books on art and language, also The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt and The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt.
In the latter series, see too Mark Lehner's Complete Pyramids of Ancient Egypt.
This is just a small sample; if you have more specific questions, I'll try to answer them.
If you're seriously interested in Egyptian studies, you might want to join The American Research Center in Egypt (www.arce.org). There are many chapters scattered around the U.S. They sponsor lectures and other activities, and there is an annual meeting at which lay people are welcome.

20orsolina
May 31, 2009, 12:06am Top

I'd like to add a couple more recommendations, if I may. The first is The Tomb-Builders of the Pharaohs by Morris Bierbrier (New York: Scribner's, 1982). It goes well with Unwrapping a Mummy by John H. Taylor, published in the Egyptian Bookshelf series (Austin: U of Texas Press, 1996). Both are brief, well-illustrated, and packed with interesting and accurate information. If your idea of the Egyptian necropolis crew was formed by Hollywood (a curse on Cecil B. DeMille), if you see them as a bunch of downtrodden slaves who were speared after their labors were finished, these books will come as a very pleasant surprise. The ailments described in Taylor's book may be aspects of Egyptian life you haven't thought about (also thanks to Hollywood and to silly novels).

21antiquary
Jul 9, 2015, 4:24pm Top

There are a couple of earlier books I would mention. Andre Norton, the great science fiction writer, wrote a novel about the war against the Hyksos called Shadow Hawk which I liked very much as a teenager (which was basically the audience she was aiming for). It made the Hyksos out to be really evil, which may not be fair, though it may be how the Egyptians remembered them. It also made the priests of Anubis out to be evil, which I do not think was an Egyptian view. The story does have a murder investigation aspect, though much of it is straight adventure/war.
There is also a children's book I read as as child, Boy of the Pyramids, which has a mystery aspect. It is definitely a children's book, and perhaps dated now, but looking at it again I still liked it.

22reconditereader
Jul 11, 2015, 11:16pm Top

For nonfiction, Red Land, Black Land by Barbara Mertz is a fantastic read. Under other names, she also has written mysteries, some of which are set in Egypt in, I believe, the 1920s, with archeologists.

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