Despite the 'exotic' setting, this is not a high adventure novel, but rather a grim tale about desperately unhappy and self-delusional people. The writing is as dry as the desert and the action slow paced and methodical.
Part of the difficulty with this book is that it's hard to like either of the two main narrators. One is an unbelievably pompous amateur scholar who seems to be blissfully oblivious to everything and everyone around him; the other is a hard boiled detective attempting to relive his glory days by writing long self-promotional missives to an unseen acquaintance on the other side of the world. While annoying at first, it is the author's attention to too much detail that adds humor to the story. From Professor Trilipush's exaggerated autobiography and over-analyzed conversations with the likes of Howard Carter, to Farrell's impressions of potential clients and projected feelings for the wrong woman (not to give too much away), it becomes apparent that the reader should not be sympathizing with the characters so much as ridiculing them even as they narrative their own stories.
One thing is certain, however. Those expecting a quick, fun, adventurous read will be sorely disappointed. The humor - and there's a lot of it - is more in the style of Dorothy Parker than Elizabeth Peters. The book is challenging, but if you're up to it, you'll find it rewarding in the end.
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