Rika Teferi, a young woman who formerly led midnight raids in Eritrea's war for independence from Ethiopia, is working on her doctorate in the Cairo museum when catastrophe strikes. An accidental tea spill damages the royal papyrus she has been struggling to interpret, the papyrus purported to be Queen Tiye's last message to her son, Tutankhamun. But the spill also exposes hidden writing below the surface hieroglyphs. Horrified at the damage but aching to read the entire secret text, Rika agrees to let visiting remote-sensing expert David Chamberlain smuggle the priceless document out of the museum and scan it with instruments on his aircraft.
The results are stunning. They show Tiye, previously a footnote in history, to have been the power behind the thrones of her husband and sons, as well as the architect of a monotheistic religion unique in ancient Egypt. Riveted by these revelations, Rika and David devise a covert plan to locate Tiye's tomb. But Major Hassam of the Egyptian Secret Police misreads their activities as a plot to overthrow the government and vows to stop them at all costs.
Reared in revolution, Rika feels a spiritual bond with Tiye, an African commoner who revolutionized Egyptian society by introducing a religion that freed Egypt from the tyranny of the Amun priests. Rika's quest to find Tiye's tomb parallels the queen's last journey up the Nile, 3000 years before, to be buried alive in a tomb like no other.
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- Charles D. Christman