Murder in the mummy’s tomb: A G.K. Chesterton mystery
River Oak (distrib. Kingsway); 2002; Pbk.; £6.99; 254p.; ISBN 1589199634
“Pigs are very beautiful animals. Those who think otherwise are those who do not look at anything with their own eyes, but only with other people’s eyeglasses”.
G.K. Chesterton, The Uses of Diversity, 1908.
The above quote on page 65 of The Whole Hog by Lyall Watson (ISBN 1861977360) is a fitting introduction to this review of a very readable detective story, with G.K. Chesterton himself playing the detective instead of his creation “Father Brown”.
Lyall Watson points out that
“Chesterton was a master of parody. He used in exuberantly to debunk Victorian pretensions … [His] irreverent essays are a delight to read, largely because he took his comic commentaries to their logical and serious conclusions. He was right about preconceptions and other people’s eyes”.
What you see is what you see, but what you think you have seen is a different matter. A doctor is more likely to be remembered by one of his thousands of patients than the other way round. You would remember if a colleague passed you, but not a postman on his rounds.
With the above hints, and the fact that Kel Richard’s book is dedicated to “John Dickson Carr (1906-77) Master of the Locked Room Mystery”, you will be in a good position to try solving how a newly murdered body was found in an Ancient Egyptian sarcophagus just after the wall was broken to its sealed tomb.
This fictional account of an archaeological dig is given veracity (claims the author) with matters archaeological and Egyptological by a Dr. Karin Sowada. The details of Egyptian heat and khamsin (fierce wind that moves a lot of sand), and the details of daily life for the archaeologists sound convincing. There are several murders, several thefts, professional jealousy between rival archaeologists and rival journalists, a love interest, and of course some description of the treasures you would find in a previously unopened Egyptian tomb.
On the last pages the fictional Chesterton points out that “Once we face the reality of immortality, suddenly we realise that this life is so small, and what lies behind is so large. This is the lobby, that is the building; this is the school, that is the career; this is the overture, that is the performance. We either live this life preparing for that other, larger, life, or we waste it”. He concludes: “anyone who thinks he or she is good enough for God will discover that God is unimpressed by self-approval and will end up in hell. Only those who realise they are too bad for heaven, and ask for forgiveness, will get there. There is only one door to heaven, and the word stamped upon it is ‘forgiveness’ ”
Contributed by David E. Parry, MA, DipLib, MCLIP, a retired librarian and editor of the newsletter Alternative Alternative.