The Murder of King Tut by James Patterson & Martin Dugard

I had high hopes for this book.  A nonfiction account of one of history’s most intriguing characters written by one of the most popular authors of crime and suspense fiction…it seemed like a sure thing.  Unfortunately, I’ve rarely been so disappointed in a book.

There are three nonfiction stories being told simultaneously in the book.  First, Patterson writes about his excitement while planning and researching the subject with co-author Martin Dugard.  Second is the story of Howard Carter, the British Egyptologist who discovered the 3,000 year-old, long-lost tomb of King Tutankhamen in 1922 after years of searching.  Third is the story of King Tut himself and the events leading up to his supposed murder when he was only 19 years old. 

All three storylines are interesting and woven together well.  But the problem I had with the book is one that often comes up for me when reading books by authors like Patterson or Baldacci, whose prolificacy sometimes seems to come at the expense of quality writing.  In other words, I really feel like he phoned this one in.  The language was simple, the text was printed in large font and most chapters were about a page and a half long occasionally even breaking up conversations, which was very disruptive.  It felt a little like reading a report written by a middle schooler who was trying to use fluff-up tricks to make the report long enough.  And unfortunately, I can’t even recommend it for young readers, because while the reading level is certainly juvenile enough, the book contains one episode of violent sexuality that keeps it firmly on the adult shelf.

Also, I’m not sure exactly why this book is considered nonfiction rather than historic fiction.  Patterson makes sure to explain that he is meticulous about his research and includes known facts and generally accepted suppositions whenever possible, but the Tut portion of the story reads so much like fiction, including events and conversations that are impossible to know for certain that I think it should be considered fiction.

If you want a quick lesson on King Tut or Howard Carter I’d suggest skipping this book and just hitting wikipedia for the same facts and a lot less fluff.

Published in: on March 31, 2010 at 12:43 am  Leave a Comment  
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