My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Sci Fi meets historic fiction in Lincoln Child’s newest novel, The Third Gate (Doubleday 2012) as world-renowned treasurer hunter Porter Stone sets his sites on what is considered the Holy Grail of Egyptology–a pharaoh’s grave. This one is the resting place of none other than Narmer, the pharaoh who united Lower and Upper Egypt thousands of years ago. When odd–read that ‘unnatural’–events begin to pepper the dig site, he calls in self-proclaimed enigmatologist (a specialist in enigmas) Jeremy Logan. What adds to the drama is that the site is located in the Sudd, a god-foresaken bogland south of the Egyptian border that the dig organizer calls Hell on Earth. Logan not only has made a career of studying oddities, but is an empath–a person who feels a person’s emotional history by simply touching them. It doesn’t take Logan long to realize the excavation is cursed and only withdrawing–which Stone refuses to do–can they end their problems.
This is an interesting tale with enough historic details to make readers of that genre deliriously happy. Despite what has become in action novels an ubiquitous reference to Occam’s Razor–that sometimes the simplest explanation is the best–this tale is smart and challenging with lots of detail on ancient Egypt, the treacherous Sudd setting, and enough discussion on near-death experiences to get me interested in that topic. The plot–pitting a committed treasurer hunter against a deadly curse that seems more alive every day–is riveting, but not well told through the eyes of the main character, Jeremy Logan. He spends the first three-fourths of the book observing the action around him rather than being involved in it. True, he was hired to observe, but it puts the reader at arms length from the crises that pepper the plot–the mystical figures that appear on the treacherous Sudd landscape, the unexplained injuries to workers, the fact that the expedition’s wife seems possessed by the dead pharaoh. Where these should strike fear in our heart and keep us turning pages, I found myself unaffected, because Logan was unaffected. This slowed the pace and stripped the terror that would otherwise imbue the plot.
Overall, a good read, challenging to those who enjoy an intellectual romp.
Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-sixth grade, creator of two technology training books for middle school and three ebooks on technology in education. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blogger, IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be out to publishers this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.