Saturday 7 May 2011

The Murder of King Tut by James Patterson and Martin Dugard

This is the first James Patterson book I have ever read.  And it will probably be my last.  I chose it because I love Ancient Egypt, and because I've always found the mystery surrounding the death of Tutankhamun really interesting; all the conspiracy theories and suspicions.

Tutankhamun was an Egyptian pharaoh.  He came to power after the radical Akhenaten, who outlawed worship of the traditional range of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, in favour of the Sun God, Aten.  He turned his back on war and Egypt's traditional cities, overseeing a period of decline.  His son, Tutankhamun, was only around eight years old when he became pharaoh, and died in his late teens.  His was the only intact Egyptian tomb to ever be discovered, by Howard Carter.  He also married his half-sister!

So it's not as though the subject matter wasn't interesting.  The problem I had with it was that it read as though Patterson had got a passing urge for Egyptology, read a few general books, and then attempted to pass himself off as an expert, writing the book very quickly.  I teach Ancient Egypt to my year 3 class (aged 7-8), and I can tell you that they definitely know more about Tut than James Patterson does.

And despite this lack of any in-depth facts, Patterson criticises Egyptologists and their theories.  Although no one will ever really know how Tut died (he had multiple injuries, including a blow to the head, leg injury and swollen tooth that could have been infected), Patterson absolutely claims that he was murdered and that he knew who did it.  This is all based on his 'hunch' and 'feelings'.  He dismisses the renowed Egyptologist Zahi Hawass (who has recently released some new DNA evidence), claiming that his research is all wrong.  I found all this completely arrogant and unscientific.  Patterson's theory about a murderous chief advisor is interesting, but it's just that, a theory. I certainly wouldn't claim to know more about a subject than someone who has studied it for years and years.

Another problem I had was with the way the book was put together.  I had a chunky hardback version from my library but the pages were deceptively thick.  The numerous chapters often had only one or two pages, with each chapter finishing near the top of a page and the next starting on a fresh.  This all felt suspiciously like padding out on the part of the publisher, making the book seem more substantial than it really was.  It was probably only the length of a novella.

I should say something positive - the writing wasn't bad, and Patterson would make a good historical fiction author.  He should just stay well away from non-fiction.

Verdict: Glad this one was a library book.
Score: 1 out of 5


  1. oh, this makes me sad. this book has been on my TBR pile. :*(

  2. @Stephanie M. Hasty
    Oh no! Hopefully you like it more than I did ...

  3. I tried reading this book too. I didn't even finish it... Glad I got it from the library.

  4. @bookishhobbit
    I'm glad I'm not the only one that didn't like it!

  5. I've only read one James Patterson book myself, which was also my last. So we've got that going for us...

  6. Brilliant review, love the brutal honesty :)
    I love reading non-fiction about the ancient Egyptians (and Greeks - it's been a passion since I was 10). I would have been so furious reading this book, if he's being so arrogant and know-it-all - and doesn't!

  7. @Brenna - And I found out about the ghost writers half way through, which put me off even more!

    @Noiashui - Yes, I was a bit harsh - but I think James Patterson's ego could handle it :P
    You would love my job then, the topics I teach to my class each year are Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece.

  8. The first two lines of your review made me giggle, I've only ever read one James Patterson book too, and won't be going back for seconds either :-)

  9. So funny: I did pronounce several times your very first line! I work in a library, not as librarian, and seeing how many holds are on Patterson's books, I felt almost ashamed I had never read any of his, though I am an avid reader. As I enjoy [good!] historical fiction, I thought I could give this one a try. It was such a disappointment, no background research, bad style, if there's any. so that my first and my last! Thank God it was short enough to read in one sitting.
    if this is on your TBR, don't waste your time, there are TONS of GREAT historical fiction books out there, and/or books on Egypt.

  10. oops, forgot to sign my previous post. this was from Emma @ Words And Peace

  11. I only read one of James Patterson's books that he co-authored with someone else. Someone told me that Patterson doesn't even write those, his name is just on them to sell the book and I believe it. I love the books that he wrote himself, hate the ones with other writers.