By Lincoln Child

Doubleday ($25.95)

ISBN-13: 978-0-385-53138-2

Reviewed by Sam Waas

Egyptian mummies and ancient tombs are always fun, especially if a curse is attached. THIRD GATE takes a modern twist on this venerable theme, and Mr. Child provides an exciting, suspenseful story.

A secretive expedition is sponsored by a quirky, treasure-hunting millionaire, Porter Stone, whose team is searching for the tomb of the Pharaoh Narmer from the First Dynasty, missing for over five millennia, long before the Pyramids were built.

Stone hires professor Jeremy Logan to assist. Logan is an "enigmalogist" who investigates mostly paranormal events and tries to solve the mysteries therein. The expedition has experienced strange, inexplicable accidents that are right down Logan's alley.

Despite previous scholarship from Egyptologists, Stone's team thinks that the legendary Pharaoh is not buried in a well-defined tomb near the other ancient digs, but far upstream, in a treacherous swampy region of the Nile know as the Sudd, and sunken deliberately beneath the bog. Exploration of the swamp is tedious and difficult, but the team is guided by the psychic revelations coming from the wife of the expedition manager Dr. Ethan Rush, once a physician who was on call when his wife Jennifer was brought in from a car crash, cyanotic. Jennifer had flatlined but instead of pronouncing her, Ethan kept working to resuscitate, and finally succeeded. Following her near death experience (NDE), Jennifer is now a gifted psychic and it is via her trances that the location of Namer's tomb is pinpointed through the mire of the swamp.

To excavate, Porter has financed a virtual floating city akin to a specialized oil exploration barge, and once the tomb of Narmer is located, plans to lower a sort of pressurized caisson so that the tomb's entrance can be reached under dry conditions.

But the tomb bears its curse, and as each of three hidden gates inside the tomb is breached, the malevolence of the curse increases. Predictably, accidents and unexplained phenomena escalate until the lives of all the expedition are threatened.

THIRD GATE is an entertaining story, with sufficient roots in actual Egyptian lore to bolster the supernatural expanses of the plot. The incorporation of modern technology also serves to make the speculative portion of the novel more believable. Mr. Child skillfully blends the truth with fiction such that the supernatural aspects do not go too far afield. This is an excellent modern speculative thriller.

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