Nefertiti: The Book of the Dead
Queen Nefertiti, wife of the heretic pharaoh Akhenaten, has disappeared right before the all-important Jubilee celebration. Theban detective Rai Rahotep must travel to the new capital of Akhetaten to investigate. To provide him with sufficient motivation, Rahotep and his family will be executed if he does not locate the queen within 10 days.
This mystery reads like a typical police procedural/suspense novel which has been ripped out of its contemporary setting and plunked down in ancient Egypt’s turbulent Amarna period. Everything one would expect from such a novel is here: plucky protagonist, politics, villainous superiors, bureaucratic red tape, and the artificially imposed deadline. Though Drake makes much mention of the setting (unfinished buildings, the nouveau riche scrabbling for power, religious unrest), it all feels contrived, like a painted drop-cloth set. The mystery itself is handled implausibly, with the villain’s actions being antithetical to his stated goal, and the resolution of the queen’s disappearance handled in a completely anticlimactic manner. Though Rahotep and his sidekick are well-developed, the rest of the characterization is over-the-top and borders on caricature at times. The pacing makes this novel readable, but overall the story is handled clumsily.