Thanks to the author’s publicist for offering me this opportunity to participate in the blog tour for the launch of this novel and for providing me an ARC copy that I freely chose to review.
I have read one of Carolyn Arnold’s Police Procedural books (Remnants, Brandon Fisher FBI Book 6) and when I was approached about this book, that is quite different in genre, I was very curious. I know I’m not the only reader fascinated by Ancient Egypt, Archaeology, and the secrets hidden by the pyramids and the hieroglyphs. I still have a copy of Gods, Graves and Scholars: The Story of Archaeology by C. W. Ceram (well, Dioses, Tumbas y Sabios, as I read the Spanish Translation), which I was given as a child, and I remember how much time I spent reading it and imagining that I was there, in Tutankhamen’s Tomb. Of course, the book is quite old now, and I was delighted to be given the opportunity of following an expedition in modern times, and seeing how much things have changed. But some things haven’t, and the magic and the excitement are still there.
This is book 2 in the Matthew Connor Adventure series, and although I can confirm it can be read independently, there are quite a few references to the previous book, City of Gold, so if you’re intending to read the whole series, I’d advise you to start by the first book, as you might otherwise miss some of the surprises. There is enough information about book 1 to get a good sense of the closeness between the friends, the dangers they encountered in their previous adventure, and also to understand what makes them tick. But when it came to the intricacies of their personal lives, I was curious about how much background I had missed, because, in such matters, nuances are important.
The story is told in the third person from a variety of characters’ points of view. It is Matthew Connor Series, and he is one of the main characters, but the story starts with Alex, an Egyptologist who knew Matthew from before and who calls him when she realises what she has come across. Both of Matthew’s friends, Cal and Robin appear reluctant to join him at first, for different reasons, but they cannot resist the adventure, and they make a great team. Robin is the studious and organised one, and she’s always dreamed of Egypt. Cal is a photographer who loves adventure and is always trying to bring a light touch and a joke to the proceedings, and the fact that he is not knowledgeable about the topic offers the author the perfect excuse to explain the background, both historical and procedural, to their expedition. Matthew is an interesting mixture of intuition, deduction, and determination. He has great instincts even if sometimes he might get side-tracked by his emotions and his flirting with danger. I know some readers are reluctant to read books where the point of view changes often, but it is well-done here, and it helps keep the mystery and the intrigue, as each character’s personality and insights provide us different clues to what is really going on. It is up to us to put the pieces of the puzzle together and it is great fun.
The book is fast-paced, and it will delight lovers of adventures. If you love Indiana Jones, you will be fascinated by the Emerald Tablets, the lost pharaoh, the snake whisperer, the treasure map, the betrayals, and the many secrets. In an ideal world, I would have loved to know more about the pharaoh and his secrets (he sounds like a fascinating character), and I was much more interested and convinced by the adventure aspect of the story than by the personal relationships and the love stories of the characters. Matthew came across as quite fickle at times, but he is very young (that is more evident emotionally than professionally), and I think his reactions and behaviour are understandable. The three friends go through emotional turmoil, and in all cases, it is related to their profession and their love of adventure, which brings an interesting and realistic aspect to the matter. We are used to adventurers who are either loners, or somehow come across a kindred spirit who loves adventures as much as they do, but rarely do we find a group of friends who know the value of their friendship and appreciate the difficulties of fitting their love for adventure into a ‘normal’ life. None of the main characters are flawless heroes (some hate snakes, there are jealousies, unfunny jokes, superstition, lack of commitment, and lies) and, for me, that is a strength, because it makes them human and easier to identify with.
The author once more shows her skill at research, and the technology used as part of the expedition, the procedures followed, and the setting blend smoothly into the story without delaying the action or going into unnecessarily detailed descriptions. There are clues, red herrings, plenty of suspects, and twists and turns to keep the mystery readers engaged too.
A thrilling and fun adventure that I recommend to anybody who loves the Indiana Jones movies and has always been intrigued by archaeological mysteries. The plot is particularly strong, but the characters are relatable and likeable, and I would love to join them on their next adventure. I am sure you will too.