The Murder of King Tut Review
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As the King Tut exhibit continues to make its way to museums across North America, interest in the pharaohs has once again been renewed. And best-selling novelist James Patterson makes the ancient king’s story all the more intriguing with his latest book, The Murder of King Tut.

Written with non-fiction writer Martin Dugard (who did much of the legwork while Patterson hung back in Florida to put the pieces together), King Tut examines the life—and the mysterious death—of the young Egyptian pharaoh.

Throughout the book, Patterson weaves together three different stories from three different times. First, of course, there’s the story of King Tut, the boy who became king after his father’s early death. His is a story of dedication, determination, and devotion to his beloved queen, Ankhesenpaaten. And, according to Patterson, it’s also a story of betrayal and, eventually, murder.

The details of Tut’s life aren’t particularly widely known (and any clues to his cause of death were buried for centuries), so Patterson and Dugard had to use information gleaned from x-rays, artifacts, and various historical accounts to piece together their murder mystery. Since I’m not an archaeologist, I can’t say how historically accurate the story is—though it’s no secret that much of it is educated speculation. I can say, however, that the ancient mystery, mixed with Patterson’s fast-moving narrative style, makes for a fascinating read.

If you’ve ever been interested in ancient Egypt—or the mysterious King Tut—you’ll be captivated by this look at his short life. Patterson paints Tut’s life in vivid detail, bringing the young pharaoh back to life in his readers’ minds. He develops the ancient characters and their story well—and the super-short chapters, which almost always end in some kind of a cliff-hanger, ensure that it’s a speedy read.

More than just an ancient murder mystery, though, King Tut also tells the story of Howard Carter, the stubborn Egyptologist who dedicated his life to the search for an undisturbed tomb in the Valley of the Kings—preferably King Tut’s. Carter’s story adds another interesting perspective—although, admittedly, it reveals little more about Tut’s mysterious death.

Since Carter’s portion took place in the early twentieth century, though, more of the historical details still remain—the letters, the sketches, and the archaeological records. For that reason, Carter’s story is a little more factual and a little less narrative. Patterson presents the facts more than he paints a picture. And although Carter is certainly an interesting character, he isn’t quite as well developed as Tut himself—and his part of the story feels more stark and distant.

And, finally, Patterson tells his own story—though I’m still not sure why. What seemed like an opportunity to discuss his own research (and Dugard’s) seems more like a series of journal entries about everything from Donald Trump’s golf course to his conversations with his editor or his wife. While these parts do offer an interesting look at Patterson’s routine, it doesn’t offer much insight into Tut’s story—or how Patterson came to his conclusions. Mostly, it feels like filler—and an unnecessary distraction from the murder mystery.

The Murder of King Tut definitely isn’t the usual Patterson book. It’s more of a pet project—something that struck Patterson’s fancy, so his publisher let him run with it. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty fascinating pet project—a mix of fact and narrative, history and speculation. And though it sometimes feels a bit scattered—and it lacks that jaw-dropping ah-ha! moment that would make it a must-read—this quick and imaginative non-fiction thriller is sure to renew (or spark) your interest in the mysterious Child King.

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