The idea of the “paranormal” or the “woo-woo” element is strikingly popular these days. If such books bother you, or you find them offensive, The Third Gate by Lincoln Child is not for you. The paranormal as well as the idea of near death experiences play a major role in this novel.
Professor Jeremy Logan bills himself as an “Enigmologist” and is quite successful at it in addition to being a professor of Medieval History at Yale. What really drives him is explaining the unexplainable---whether it be spiritual or scientific. It is precisely that aspect of his life that, after considerable cloak and dagger, will have him stationed in the legendary “Sudd.”
“’Imagine: a region thousands of square miles across, not so much swap as a labyrinth of papyrus reeds and water logged trunks. And mud. Mud everywhere, mud more treacherous than quicksand. The Sudd isn’t deep, often just thirty or forty feet in places, but in addition to being horribly honeycombed with braided undergrowth, its water is so full of silt, divers can’t see an inch beyond their faces. The water’s full of crocodiles by day, the air full of mosquitoes by night.’” (pages 45-46)
It is in this wet and foul place treasure hunter Porter Stone has assembled a team of scientists and workers of all types and placed them on a floating multiarmed station with any equipment they need. They are to locate the tomb of King Narmer. The pharaoh that many believe united all of Egypt thousands of years ago long before the birth of those who built the pyramids in Egypt. Time is of the essence as the Af’ayalah Dam is near completion near where the team is working. When the dam is completed it will not only destroy a legendary ecosystem, its deep waters will flood the area making it impossible to find the tomb.
Not only is time running out to find it there seems to be a curse on the project. Beyond the fact that every tomb has a curse on it of some type to protect it, there are very strange happenings at the isolated station. Scientists and others report hearing voices chanting ancient texts, figures appearing out in the marsh, floating lights, and various other strange occurrences are happening. As the days progress and some sort of entity makes its presence known more and more survival becomes an issue for Logan and others as they work to discover the tomb and true history of King Narmer.
Despite its heavy use of the paranormal and near death experiences, at its heart this is an adventure story featuring modern day scientific explorers pushing the envelope in their quest for knowledge. In this case it is a legendary King of Egypt, an inhospitable place with difficult and dangerous working conditions, and a group of folks who will start to crack in various ways under the increasing pressure of isolation. Add in the element of the strange using near death experience – little of which can be revealed without undermining the book and is not mentioned on the jacket copy for good reason- and all the elements are there for quite the thriller.
As the author notes he has taken considerable liberties with Egyptian History to tell this tale. A tale that borders on the fantastic by the end while still being utterly believable. The Third Gate, while a little bit more out there than some of his other books, is still a very good one. Not only should it appeal to mainstream readers, it should also appeal to those who deliberately look for a bit of the strange or paranormal in their reads.
The Third Gate
Doubleday (Random House)
Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2012