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Novels set in Egypt - what a great way to set the scene for your holiday in Luxor, the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens!
Here are both bestselling authors - like Elizabeth Peters or Christian Jacq - and our own discoveries of great novels which feature Egypt in one way or another. (Yes, there is a lot of overlap!)
Most are your usual 'printed' books - for audiobooks please visit the special audiobooks section
You are welcome to tell us your favourite books featuring Egypt - even send us a brief review (telling us if you would like your name to appear with the review).
The Amelia Peabody murder mystery novels are set in Egypt - usually around Luxor. Fascinating, gripping and amusing, they are populated with archaeologists ('contemporaries' of Howard Carter) and a host of intriguing characters. A genuine Egyptologist (her real name is Dr. Barbara Mertz) and a spectacularly good novelist, she makes Egyptology fascinating to even the most reluctant historian! Under a third identity, Barbara Michaels, she writes gothic suspense novels.
The first in this long series of excellent Amelia Peabody Murder Mysteries set in Luxor was Crocodile On The Sandbank – and this is one series that really does benefit from reading in chronologcal order, so that you can get to know (and appreciate) Amelia's growing circle of family and friends. By the time you get to the exceptionally good Children of the Storm the multiplicity of characters would be hard to get to grips with and you would miss a lot of the sub text.
The recent Marcus Didius Falco Mystery has an Egyptian setting!
We first meet the inimitable Amelia en route to Egypt. She is clearly not the fainting kind of Victorian lady - and is not about to leave a travelling acquaintance (a destitute young woman abandoned by her lover) to the mercy of would-be kidnappers. The dangerous, parasol-wielding Amelia is impelled to unravel the puzzle of suspicious accidents and mysterious visitations - and to deal with assorted whirlwind romances, dastardly deeds and intrigue amongst the Egyptian excavations - all 're-told' with marvellous humour.
By the fifteenth book, Amelia's family is growing to include grandchildren - but the perilous missions undertaken by her son Ramses for British intelligence during the second world war mean that Amelia has to deal with a new adversary, unlike any she has previously encountered. Her beloved family is squarely set in the path of destruction.
I think these novels are even better as Audiobooks (when narrated by Barbara Rosenblatt) . She brings Amelia's tongue-in-cheek, self-parodying humour into brilliantly funny relief.
see more on the AUDIOBOOK FEATURE
The Curse Of The Pharaohs is a great follow up to the first Amelia Peabody story - there's no danger that having a baby will slow down Amelia! As one reviewer says, she still "insists on being flung head first into every crisis". Emerson and Amelia just can't keep away from Luxor - or each other! Amelia has a charmingly cheeky rather un-Victorian way of letting you know precisely how much she and Emerson 'enjoy' each other . . . Amongst the entertaining array of characters in 'The Curse Of The Pharaohs' are a few Elizabeth Peters has borrowed from Conan Doyle!
Barbara Mertz is so popular - both under her own name and under her psuedonyms as a novelist, that we made special pages for you.
The ancient worlds of Egypt and Rome meet in the two"SPQR" books reviewed below. John Maddox Roberts' complex, multi-layered "SPQR" series is set in Ancient Rome, during the same period that the Ptolemies ruled in Egypt, and Alexander the Great made Greece great.
In allowing the hero, Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger, to have rather 'modern western' world view (rather in the way Ellis Peters does with Brother Cadfael) John Maddox Roberts may offend some historical pedants, but succeeds in creating an accessible, appealing character who (like Lindsey Davis' fictional investigator, Marcus Didius Falco) doesn't put on any 'airs'.
Young Roman senator - and sleuth - Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger, grabs the chance to join a delegation on a diplomatic mission to Alexandria, currently ruled by the first Ptolemy, Ptolemy Soter. A cult leader is exerting a disturbing influence, but Decius manages to behave rather like an enthusiastic tourist - until a mathemetician - a pupil of Archimedes - is murdered. The mortuary skills of Asclepiades, a Greek doctor, come in very useful, but Decius has failed to leave his enemies behind, and the web of deceit is more twisted - and far more extensive - than he could have imagined.
Decius is in Cyprus to suppress the growing piracy of the region, but his resources are meagre.
The visiting Egyptian princess Cleopatra lends her support to his"toy navy" but he's still not gaining the upper hand, and the Roman governor of Cyprus is murdered. Is this tied up with the piracy - or does the criminal element go all the way to the top?
Christian Jacq is another prolific novel-writing Egyptologist, whose books are set in ancient Egypt.
Best known are the five books about pharaoh Ramses II, which weaves true historical details into an epic tale of love, life and deceit.
THE DIVINE WORSHIPPER
528 BC. In a tormented Egypt, threatened both by the Greeks' over-mighty influence and the Persians' desire for conquest, the struggle for power has taken the form of a deadly conspiracy - and young scribe Kel finds himself unjustly accused of murder, the helpless scapegoat at the centre of a sinister Intrigue of State. As he strives to prove his innocence, the only person Kel can rely on is Nitis, the beautiful young priestess with whom he is deeply in love. But then Nitis vanishes, and Kel throws himself into a desperate quest to find her, his destiny and that of Egypt inexorably bound together. Will he survive long enough to uncover the truth, expose the conspirators and restore his good name? Nothing is certain. For when human beings choose to follow a path paved with violence and death, they cannot avoid the vengeance of the gods.
The first book in the 'Vengeance Of The Gods' trilogy is MANHUNT (Vengeance of the Gods 1) by Christian Jacq (2007)
Paul Doherty writes historical mysteries set in the Middle Age, Classical, Greek, Ancient Egypt and elsewhere. He has used a variety of pseudonyms (see below)
Track down more books by Paul Doherty at amazon - under his pseudonyms!
Writing as himself -
Paul Doherty writing as
. . . as C.L.GRACE
. . . as ANN DUKTHAS
. . . and as VANESSA ALEXANDER
Paul Doherty has embarked upon several series set in ancient Egypt: THE"AMEROTKE" MYSTERIES (the 'Ancient Egyptian Mysteries'), The Egyptian Pharaoh Trilogy and The Alexander the Great Mysteries - and others set in other times and other places.
In the 7th"Amerotke" mystery, three of Egypt's leading scribes die violently on the Temple forecourt, a peace treaty signing between Egypt and Libya in Thebes. They have been the victims of a vile poisoning . . .
In this follow up to A Murder in Macedon (Mystery of Alexander the Great) , the city of Thebes has succumbed to Alexander the Great, and the days following are filled with murderous treason. Lysander and Memmon, Alexander's two favoured officers, have been killed by a dangerous spy, and Alexander's rule is precarious until he solves the dangerous riddle of Oedipus' crown.
Dr.Paul Doherty now writes only under his own name.
Under the pseudonym of Michael Clynes
he wrote The Sir Roger Shallot Mysteries - which all feature fancifully amusing titles as:
The White Rose Murders: Being the First Journal of Sir Roger Shallot Concerning Wicked Conspiracies and Horrible Murders Perpetrated in the Reign of King Henry VIII' (Michael Clynes Tudor Mysteries 1)
Roger Shallot's close friendship with Benjamin Daunbey, the nephew of Cardinal Wolsey, drags him into a web of mystery and murder, following the Scottish defeat at Flodden and the death of James IV. Moving between London and Scotland in 1517. The faceless assassin always leaves a white rose, the mark of 'Les Blancs Sangliers', a secret society plotting the overthrow of the Tudor monarchy. The only clue is a poem of riddles. Then it becomes clear that the riddles are linked inextricably with a series other gruesome murders.
Other titles in the Tudor Mysteries series are The Poisoned Chalice, The Grail Murders, A Brood of Vipers, The Gallows Murders and The Relic Murders
The Sorrowful Mysteries of Brother Athelsan (as Paul Harding) and others as Ann Dukthas and as Vanessa Alexander
Lauren Haney's investigator, Lieutenant Bak, commands the Medjay police in Buhen - a city in ancient Egypt.
Everyone - sovereigns and supplicants, the pious and the proud - has poured into the capital city of Waset (Luxor) for the Feast of Opet, so Lieutenant Bak decides to break his journey too. But he is distracted from the revelry by the murder of a Hittite horse trader, his throat savagely cut. When further murders occur within the Temple of Amon, Bak eagerly agrees to aid in the investigation - a decision he will regret as he becomes embroiled in a terrifying conspiracy implicating the court of Queen Hatshepsut and brings down terrible repercussions on himself.
Elizabeth Peters says: "Haney's Egyptian police lieutenant is appealing, sympathetic and totally convincing in a setting drawn with skill."
Policing old Cairo is the job of the Mamur Zapt, Captain Owen - head of the Egyptian Khedive's Secret Police - and his patch includes the souks and bazaars of 1900s Eygpt.
A fascinating book with compelling characters. Unlike his British colleagues, Owen, the Mamur Zapt, works for the Khedive - and what was an uncomfortable position soon becomes downright dangerous as political, social and religious intrigue accellerate. His wife, Zeinab - a pasha's daughter - has troubles of her own. She is attempting to bring about much needed reform through her job as a hospital administrator - enraging traditionalists.
Nefertiti and Akhenaten rule equally - but their 'enlightened' new religion (with its magnificent new capital in the desert) launches the society into revolution. Whilst the old priesthood loses its traditional power and turbulence on the country's borders unsettles the army, there's a growing resentment towards the new religion - and suddenly Egypt's glorious window-dressing of luxury and pleasure becomes merely a window-dressing disguising power struggles of epic proprotions.
Just before an important festival Nefertiti, the most powerful, charismatic and beautiful Queen of the ancient world, vanishes. Rahotep - 'Seeker of Mysteries' (and youngest chief detective of the Thebes division) has just ten days to find the Queen. Success will bring glory - but if he fails, he and his young family will die . . .
A brilliant and well researched literary thriller - dark and evocative
also see 'TUTANKHAMUN' by Nick Drake (2009)
A wonderful adventure for 8 - 12s starting in Romano-Egyptian Alexandria - site of the great lighthouse, the Library and the tomb of Alexander the Great - and leading them down the river Nile to pyramids and sphinxes, temples and tombs, crocodiles and hippos. Can the child detectives solve the codes, riddles, anagrams and hieroglyphics? And how will the journey end - with treasure - or death?
A superb novel - the story of Philomena, an undistinguished English hunting horse requisitioned by the British army in WW1 for service in Egypt and the parallel story of Griselda, her former owner, now a young war widow.
Click the link and read the reviews on amazon (towards the bottom of the page) - what more could I say?
(If you are interested in horses, be sure to visit the Brooke Hospital for Animals when you visit Luxor - and see "For the love of Horses" (below).
The story of the Brooke Hospital for Animals in Luxor, which was set up out of compassion for ex-cavalry horses.
The Ptolemies Quartet is the epic, often scandalous, sometimes humourous and always spectacular story of the Greek Pharaohs of Egypt - twelve generations from the death of Alexander the Great to the fall of Cleopatra. Expect tragic queens, pampered mistresses and turbulent children, matricide, infanticide and various other murders, conquest, madness, royal intrigue, and incest . . .
Philandelphus, the Ptolemy of"Daughter of the Crocodile", fills his life with science, feasting and concubines. He largely ignores affairs of state - leaving things wide open for his sister (her life in ruins) to set about ousting his wife, marrying him herself and becoming the saviour of Egypt. A complex train of multiple murder ensues. Meanwhile the people of Egypt are planning revolution. Seshat, the Egyptian goddess of writing, the lady in the leopardskin dress, must write down their bloody history.
Ancient Egypt is a kingdom built on gold and on a legend shattered by greed. Now, the Valley of the Kings lies ravaged by war, drained of its lifeblood as weak men inherit the cherished crown. When Lord Intef commits murder, the avenging son, Tanus, snatches the Lord's daughter. She is beautiful beyond her fourteen years; he, a proud, young army officer. Together with their mentor, Taita, a wise and formidably gifted eunuch slave, Tanus and Lostris stand in the city of Thebes at the Festival of Osiris, isolated from the excited crowd by their feeling that the Pharoah is only a symbol of a kingdom's fading glory. They share a dream: to restore the majesty of the River God, the 'Pharaoh of Pharaohs', on the glittering banks of the Nile.
Audiobook / other editions:
A follow up to River God - but you could read The Seventh Scroll as a stand-alone book.
When the tomb of Queen Lostris was discovered, the scrolls it contained stirred up murderous greed - as Duraid Ai Simmu and his beautiful wife Royan are now finding out. Their present-day search for the vast treasure buried with Pharaoh Mamose (as detailed on the scrolls) results in danger, death and misery. Can Royan find courage enough to discover what's behind it all, with the help of a treasure trail left 4,000 years ago by Taita?
GAMAL AL-GHITANI has been awarded both the Egyptian National Prize for Literature, and the French Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In between, this energetic Egyptian novelist founded and became editor-in-chief of AKHBAR AL-ADAB (a literary Arabic weekly newspaper)
His first short story was published when he was 14. He was trained as a carpet designer, but wrote in his spare time, incured the wrath of the authorities for his critical commentary on the regime of Gamal Abd el-Nasser and was imprisoned for about 6 months. In 1969 he took up journalism with the Egyptian newspaper Akhbar El Yom ('The Day's News'). He is also married to a journalist. He writes widely - historical fiction, often set in Cairo, culture and politics, and helped to found the literary magazine"Gallery 68" and in recent years he has been the editor-in-chief of one of Egypt's primary literary magazines.
The books of Naguib Mahfouz are 'great reads' in the sense that Mahfouz won the 1988 Nobel Prize in Literature, as well as Egypt's 'National Prize for Letters' and the 'Collar of the Republic' (Egypt's highest decoration). Many of his novels have been made into films, and many of his characters' names are now household names throughout Egypt. But Mahfouz writes in a florid classical Arabic style which is quite hard work, and his novels are not cheerful reading. He has a bleak, nihilistic view of the world - not what most people would call a 'great holiday read'. Don't say we didn't warn you!
At the age of 7, the security of his childhood was shaken by things he saw during the Egyptian Revolution of 1919, and Naguib Mahfouz had already written his first three novels by the age of 27. His stories are usually about very real people dealing with extraordinary events in their lives, amidst the modernization of Egyptian society and the temptations of Western values.
"Palace Walk" (the first of his "Cairo Trilogy" ) begins during Britain's occupation of Egypt immediately after World War I. The trilogy is a sweeping and evocative portrait of both a family and a country struggling to move toward independence in a society that has resisted change for centuries.
"Children of Gebelawi" (1959) is one of Mahfouz's best known works. It chronicles a family feud over Gebelaawi's new mansion built in a desert oasis. Echoing, to a certain extent, the stories of certain Bibical characters, the book was banned in Egypt and throughout the Arab world, except in the Lebanon, for alleged blasphemy over its allegorical portrayal of God.
During the 1960s Mahfouz's stories became more existentialist. "The Thief and the Dogs" (1961) is a dark, hopeless tale of a Marxist thief, who has been released from prison and plans revenge.
His outspoken support for Sadat's Camp David peace treaty with Israel caused to his books to be banned in many Arab countries - until he became the first Arabic writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. During his 70-year career he published 34 novels, over 350 short stories, dozens of movie scripts and five plays, and has many Arabic-language films to his credit.
On a trip to Egypt in 1900 Lady Anna falls in love with an Egyptian Nationalist, a man utterly committed to his country's cause, Sharif Pasha al-Barudi - a man who seems to stand for the real, secret Egypt.
Nearly a century later, Isabel Parkman, recent divorcee and a descendent of Anna and Sharif, falls in love with a New York based Egyptian, Omar-al-Ghamrawi. An old family trunk captures her imagination - she dcides to take it - in person - to Omar's sister Amal, who lives in Cairo.
As the tensions and dangers in contemporary Egypt become more threatening, Amal unpacks the trunk. The old love stories - love of Sharif and love of Egypt - seem intertwined with the difficulties of her own life - living, as she is, poised between two cultures.
Iris Black's peaceful, or stiflingly quiet and claustrophobic, house in Cairo is suddenly disturbed by the unexpected arrival of a rebellious, confused teenage runaway - a stranger - her granddaughter Ruby. With the tentative growth of trust between them Ruby is able to help her grandmother reclaim her deteriorating memories of her frantic love affair in the glittering, cosmopolitan Cairo of the second World War - which ended in tragedy. But even as the two women are learning from each other, they are led into terrible danger in the Egyptian desert.
Pure escapist fiction
A mixture of titles including fact and fiction.
"Alexandria", a recent Falco book, was set in Egypt, in the first century AD when Alexandria was ruled by the Roman Empire.
Gaius Petreius Ruso is a divorced Roman army surgeon who took his posting in Roman Britain with the intention of making a career and a fortune - but he finds himself turning detective.
Quick word of warning - UK published versions of the books use 'Ruso' in the title; USA published versions of the same book use 'Medicus' instead - so take care you don't end up with two copies of the same book!
Saylor's Roma Sub Rosa series, set in ancient Rome, features the detective "Gordianus The Finder".
Gordianus finds himself unable to prevent the murder of Dio - a former mentor, now a philosopher and Egyptian ambassador. Pompey, Caesar and Crassus are contemplating annexing Egypt, aided and abetted by its exiled king. When Gordianus finds himself the ally of Clodius and Clodia, the two most notoriously dissolute siblings he discovers that nothing is quite as deceptive as what we think we know . . .
more titles in the series:
A Murder On The Appian Way
Catilina's Riddle, The Triumph Of Caesar, Arms Of Nemesis, Roman Blood, Roma
Boleslaw Prus (born Aleksander Glowacki) was a Polish journalist and novelist - but it was his novels which made his name.
Originally titled 'PHARAOH' - An Historical Novel Of Ancient Egypt , this is his Boleslaw Prus's only historical novel. First published (1895-96) as a Warsaw newspaper serialization (as were his other books) the author later retitled the novel"The Pharaoh and the Priest".
Another of his novels, The Doll - has become a central European classic
Also available as: THE PHARAOH AND THE PRIEST (2 volumes), translated by Jeremiah Curtin:
"The Pharaoh and the Priest" is the story of a brave young Pharaoh, Rameses XIII, determined to bring about reform. The book reveals the mechanisms of political power, as sacred and secular powers clash - supposedly in the Twentieth Dynasty and the New Kingdom, but the book reflects both the Polish tradition of political fiction stretching back to the 16th century and the author's interest in the metaphor of 'society-as-organism'. A thoroughly enjoyable (sad) story of life at every level of ancient Egyptian society - in 1966 it was adapted as a Polish feature film, directed by Jerzy Kawalerowicz.
Curtin's translation, however, has received some heavy criticism, so you may prefer to track down Christopher Kasparek's 1992 translation of 'Pharaoh' published by Hippocrene (not available at amazon at the time of writing)
The Yacoubian Building was a highly acclaimed but controversial novel. The building itself, in Cairo, broadly reflects the social and emotional life the city. The statement of its architecture and history is obvious; the stories of love and power, sex and politics twist into a complex labyrinth. In Taha, the doorman's son, the conflicts find a personal expression.
No topic is off limits - Islamic fundamentalism, homosexuality, bribery and corruption are all woven in to a merciless and haunting story, at times harsh, but often funny.
Paul Temple needs to research for his next story - in Cario. So with and his Fleet Street journalist wife, Steve, he flies to Egypt in a seaplane (from the BOAC base at Poole in Dorset). A two day journey - routine in 1947 - now has a real period feel to it! But the Temples attract trouble - and are soon caught up with investigating a murder.
The entertainingly twisting trail of the Sullivan case is a 'period piece', with an escalating 'body count' in a rather fantastic tale — a remake of a 'lost episode' from 1947. This 8 part recording uses contemporary microphones, sound effects and the original Francis Durbridge scripts - but the over enthusiastic sound effects have been toned down for a contemporary audience
As Howard Carter prepares to open the tomb of Tutankhamen he broods on a variety of mysterious warnings - Epic supernatural romance thriller - somewhere between a historical novel and a gothic chiller . . . hmmm! We've included here out of curiosity value . . .
Vicky is an art historian in Munich. Her specialism, medieval Europe, whisks her from the 'safe' environment of the National Museum into the realm of brilliant artists and cold-blooded killers, forgers and art thieves. Danger ensues - and so does romance!
Also recently, a Large print edition
Publisher's synopsis: The heist of the century has taken place in Egypt's Valley of the Kings, and Vicki's on/off boyfriend, Sir John Smythe, is a prime suspect.Despite his insistence that he is no longer in the business of stealing antiquities and art objects, even Vicky isn't one hundred percent certain he has not fallen back into his old habits. Pursued by Interpol, the Egyptian police, rival gangs of illicit antiquities thieves, and (worse of all) Vicky's inquisitive boss, Anton Z. Schmidt, she and John set out on a wild chase across Europe and Egypt in an attempt to clear him by finding the real culprits and retrieving the stolen object.
The Lestrade Mystery Series are fun - a slightly comic 'tongue in cheek' humour. Don't bring a Sherlock Holmes mindset to these novels - they borrow only names from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
In Lestrade And The Kiss Of Horus, retired Detective Chief Inspector Lestrade is called back in to help with several murders, including the mysterious death of Lord Carnarvon in Egypt. So Lestrade finds himself in the Valley of the Kings - and not enjoying it. There's a good sense of place and of fun . . .
Romance, thrills and chills . . . a wonderful variety of novels set in Egypt.
Recently divorced, Anna Coburn decides to cheer herself up by retracing a journey her great grandmother made in the nineteenth century: a Nile cruise from Luxor to the Valley of the Kings. Anna carries with her on the voyage two mementoes of her great-grandmother Louisa: an ancient Egyptian scent bottle, and the diary of that original Nile cruise, which has lain unread for a hundred years. As she follows in Louisa's footsteps, Anna discovers in the diary the chilling secret of the scent bottle and is pursued by the same terrifying spectres as her great grandmother.
A love story set against the exotic background of Egypt and other countries - shifting between the narrator's life as an old woman remembering the past and her life as a young woman.
As a broadcaster and writer, Keating specialised in archaeology and environmental issues - and has had a high profile at times: "Many people have beeen accused of starting the second World War. I am among them and have letters to prove it. It all began with a radio broadcast which involved the Curse of Tutankhamun, the late King Farouk of Egypt and an over-zealous British Army musician . . ."
That quote made me put this biography on my 'to read' list! Accusers said that Keating had invoked the curse of Tutankhamun (and thus started the war) by organising the first radio broadcast of Tutankhamun's Trumpets on the eve of World War 2.
click to hear the sound of the trumpet, as broadcast then scroll down to find the link (flash required)
Rex became a war correspondent and commentator for War Pictorial News, reporting the Desert war news from North Africa and in the 60's he worked with UNESCO to cover the anti-Aswan Dam campaigns which opposed the flooding of most of Nubia.
In his book NUBIAN RESCUE, Keating reports on UNESCO's spectacular archaeological salvage operation - invovling scholars, architects and engineers from all over the world - to conserve or excavate the ancient monuments, settlements and cemeteries which were doomed to destruction by the Aswan Dam project.
In Nubian Twilight Keating sees the High Dam as 'the twilight of Nubia' - a land he loves, and here shows us in detail. He covers its highway, the keeper of the door of the South, the 'Belly of Stone', 'The Guardians of the Cataract', Island of the King, 'Viceroys of Kush and Abu Simbel', 'Ozymandias', the 'Kingdom of Kush' and the 'Coming of Byzantium'.
Includes a chronology and maps
Dark short stories of village life in Karnak, set against the backdrop of the British campaigns in Sudan, the Second World War, and the war in Palestine,"The Collar and the Bracelet" is the grim saga of the troubled Bishari family.
A modernist narrative tapestry of love and revenge with the flavour of a folk story.
Tutankhamun dies in a chariot 'accident' on a hunting trip (designed to celebrate the pregnancy of his wife) - which triggers a vicious struggle for the succession. But was it really murder? The widow and her unborn child are in danger - and only Huy, the disgraced former scribe, can help.
Not spectacular, but a readable ancient Egyptian mystery set during the reign of Ramses III. The down-and-out investigator, Semerket - a boozer who is still hung up on his ex-wife - had been clerk of Investigations and Secrets. Now that the authorities aim to cover up, not reveal, they fell he's a safe choice of investigator. But he's smarter than his employers suspect.
Pauline Gedge has written two series set in Ancient Egypt, plus some stand-alone novels. The "Lord of the Two Lands" series deals with the rise of the eighteenth dynasty - and"The Twelfth Transforming" deals with its fall. The Hera Series is set in the nineteenth dynasty, and are written with a thread of mysticism.
Judith Tarr writes historical fiction . "King and Goddess" is a dramatic novel about the notorious female king, Hatshepsut and her ruthless struggle to produce a male heir.