An ancient mystery, a hidden language, and the secrets of a bizarre Egyptian sect collide in modern-day London in this ingenious novel of seduction, conspiracy, and betrayal alter Rothschild is an American Egyptologist living in London and charged by the British Museum with the task of unlocking the ancient riddle of the Stela of Paser, one of the last remaining real-life hieroglyphic mysteries in existence today. The secrets of the stela-a centuries-old funerary stone-have evaded scholars for thousands of years due to the stela's cryptic reference to a third translation:
This is the latest novel trying to capitalize on the amazing success of The Da Vinci Code by positing an ancient mystery, contemporary scholars, rare documents, greedy collectors, and a quasi-academic protagonist. In this case he's an American Egyptologist living in London who's got less than a week to unlock the secrets of the Stela of Paser, a funerary stone whose references to a "third way" of deciphering the hieroglyphics inscribed on the stone have teased, tempted and eluded would-be translators for centuries.
Walter Rothschild has sacrificed a wife, a child, and many of the other things that make life worth living to pursue a passion cultivated in childhood and encouraged by his own father. Less than a week before his grant runs out and the Stela of Paser returns to its dusty basement in the British Museum, Walter is seduced and drugged by a mysterious young woman who steals a precious document from the Museum; in search of her and the papyrus scroll, Rothschild encounters a cult of would-be mystics who will stop at nothing to get him to decipher the Stela and reveal its secrets--especially those that promise a "third way" between life and death, "the endless quest of the ancient kings." While Walter's efforts are admirable, he is basically a boring, fretful, and regretful man who fails to engage the reader. That's too bad, for otherwise this is a beautifully written, thoroughly researched, and finely detailed novel based somewhat on the author's own obsession with the Stela. But if you share his passion for Egyptology, and want a more learned discourse on its arcana than the Amelia Peabody mysteries provide, The Third Translation is well worth reading. --Jane Adams