Tuesday, 16 January 2001

Michael Pearce: The Mamur Zapt and the Spoils of Egypt (1992)

Edition: HarperCollins, 1992 (Buy from Amazon)
Review number: 716

One of the scandals of the archaeological world is the way in which the heritage of the eastern Mediterranean, particularly Greece and Egypt, was ransacked in the nineteenth century to create the collections of museums and individuals in the West. Very little attempt was made to stop the removal of artefacts, because it was not in the financial interest of powerful men to do so. Tourism was not sufficiently important, in the days before mass air travel, to compensate for the riches brought by this trade.

When an American woman from a society opposed to the export of antiquities who is well connected starts making trouble the Mamur Zapt becomes involved. After an attack on her and several supposed accidents on one archaeological dig in the south, it becomes clear that something serious is going on.

The issue of the missing artefacts is one which many Egyptians today feel strongly about, and perhaps so does Michael Pearce. It has, at any rate, led him to write a rather more serious Mamur Zapt novel than most of the series. The Mamur Zapt and the Spoils of Egypt is still fun, but it is not as funny.

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