Book Review: Sinai by William Smethurst

Are you a connoisseur of Egyptology? I can’t really say that I am, though I do enjoy trivial bits of information about the area, the people that lived there, mythology, weapons, and artwork. My dad went on a tour of Egypt and came back with pictures and presents for everyone, and he piqued my curiosity. I also enjoy the occasional historical thriller. When the publisher invited me to read and review this book, I found the description intriguing:

From the Egypt of The Exodus, to an Egypt falling under an Islamic revolution…  

A story that starts in 1350BC and ends tomorrow…Sinai, a timeslip thriller for our time In 1350 BC the Israelites are driven from Egypt, their journey through the harsh desert of Sinai, their plight and their story to forever be remembered as the Exodus.  

In modern day Sinai academic Richard Corrigan discovers a missing German tourist. Suffering from extreme dehydration and talking in an ancient language the tourist recites a prayer to the Egyptian Sun God as he dies. 

In revolutionary Cairo, the mysterious Elizabeth St. George takes Corrigan to a city morgue. The corpse he is shown is fresh, yet to his trained eye looks to be 3,500 years old. 

In a leafy London street Jihadist terrorists storm Corrigan’s flat. It appears he’s got too close… but to what? 

As Corrigan begins to question how the past can truly affect the present he finds the question changes. Can the present affect the past? Has it already?
Sinai, a timeslip thriller for our time
 

(From Amazon.com)

Sounds like it could be a sort of Egyptian “Da Vinci Code,” doesn’t it?

Not even close. This book falls into the “DNF” (Did Not Finish) category, and I will tell you why:

The publisher, December House, wrote “Sinai was originally released in 1996 but has been rewritten and updated for it’s e-book release…” The book got off to a rough (slow and confusing) start, but sometimes first chapters are like that, and I forged onward. The very first page—I am reading this on my Kindle—is mostly one sentence, but with a couple of educational bits thrown in in parentheses. And just in case you missed the second sentence on the page, it is repeated in the beginning of the second paragraph. The author seems pretty fond of this tactic.

Mr. Smethurst is also an ardent devotee of passive voice, which means that the trifling amount of action included in what I read came watered down and at a distance from the reader. In Chapter 12 things got exciting when bullets started flying, but the thrill only lasted for one paragraph. One measly paragraph! Then, suddenly, “He was in Cairo.”

I wanted to scream. “What? Wait! Where’s the heart-stopping terror? The sound of gunfire? Shouting? Screaming? Anything? I’ll take a quiet cold sweat, please.” And let’s not forget that pernicious “was” that completely killed any lingering hope of excitement.

An accomplice gave the appearance of getting chased through the city and up a pyramid, but it was only an appearance. Nothing really happened. At least not within the reader’s view.

Along with the re-writing there should have been some re-editing. The book is decorated with punctuation errors, filter words (that passive voice thing!), several typos, out-of-place abbreviations, repetitious phrases, awkward passages (generally involving conversations), jerky transitions, and a heavy sprinkling of names that perhaps a student of the field would appreciate, but to the author does not attach any emotional weight to them for the more casual reader’s benefit. I wanted to like this book. I kept looking for something to like…

At 23%, I checked the progress bar to see how much further I had to go.

At 37% I started avoiding my Kindle and turned to washing dishes, doing laundry, paying bills, attempting to rescue information from my jiggered laptop…

Wait a minute, I like to read! How about if I just read something else instead?

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