Sussman, Paul - 'The Labyrinth of Osiris'
"Taking a drag on his cigarette, he pulled out his wallet. There was a plastic pocket inside, and inside the pocket a photo: Khalifa, his wife Zenab, and their three children: Batah, Ali, little Yusuf – Team Khalifa as they jokingly called themselves."
Luxor, Egypt, 1931, and an unpopular member of the Carter "Tutankhamun" team disappears. Fifty years later a honeymooner's fall into a desert tomb-shaft brings her face to face with a mummified figure seated in the darkness. Now, in the Jerusalem of 2011, police detective Arieh Ben-Roi is holding his ex-partner's hand whilst they stare at the grainy image of their baby on the ultra-sound screen. Arieh's mobile phone chimes out. He ignores it and makes an effort to concentrate on the scan whilst the phone continues to ring. He glances at its screen and answers the call. Apologising to Sarah, Arieh tells her that he has to leave, it's work. They argue. He is always doing this, just thirty minutes of your time is all I ask, says Sarah. As he leaves he overhears her telling the ultra-sound technician that this is exactly why they are no longer together, work always comes first for Arieh. Arriving at the Cathedral of St James in the Armenian Quarter, Arieh finds the forensic team busy examining the crime scene – a side room of the cathedral where a brutally murdered woman has been found, her body concealed under a cloth covered table. Meanwhile an old work associate of Arieh's, Inspector Yusuf Khalifa of the Luxor Police, is out in the Eastern Desert of Egypt comforting a farmer as they stare at the dead water buffalo slumped next to the farmer's waterhole. Khalifa takes in the withered and yellowed crops and asks if the man really thinks that the villagers poisoned his well. "Of course they have done it" replies the man with the green cross tattooed on his hand. "We're Christians, they're Muslims. They want us out."
As Arieh Ben-Aroi follows the trail of the Jerusalem murder victim, a left-wing journalist, he is eventually reunited with Egyptian detective Yusuf Khalifa, with whom he worked in THE LAST SECRET OF THE TEMPLE, Sussman's second book in the "Inspector Khalifa" series. The intervening years have brought change into both of their lives but their old trust and respect for each other soon merges their investigations as the plot hurtles towards its tense and moving conclusion. Paul Sussman has skilfully stitched together a grand canvas. With distinct, believable characters, he fuses murder, sex-trafficking, Egyptian archaeology, corporate corruption, anti-capitalist activists and religious and political current affairs into one big, rich read. A deft touch with detail brings the streets of Jerusalem, Luxor and Tel-Aviv to life. And Sussman's lifelong interest and practical experience in Egyptian archaeology feeds into an equally authentic picture of the vast Egyptian desert, its monuments – and even the relentless modernising developments that seek the ultimate "treasure" of tourism. THE LABYRINTH OF OSIRIS is a terrific, wide-ranging and informed thriller. At five hundred plus pages it is also a beast of a book which, believe me, causes considerable hand-cramping when you can't put it down, which I couldn't. It is the third in the writer's "Inspector Khalifa" series, but tragically it is the last. Paul Sussman, journalist, archaeologist and writer died suddenly in May of this year. He had just received the proofs of THE LABYRINTH OF OSIRIS. In an obituary tribute in The Independent, a friend and fellow journalist was quoted as saying that Paul Sussman was particularly proud of THE LABYRINTH OF OSIRIS, "... he felt he had nailed it." I think he certainly had.
Lynn Harvey, England