Solving a 3,000 year old mystery
Secrets of the Tombs: The Phoenix Code by Helen Moss
Ryan Flint is the son of an investigative journalist on the trail of a scoop. Cleo McNeil is the daughter of the archaeological team leaders in search of the long lost Benben stone. They are brought together in the dusty tomb of Smenkhkare, when Ryan is the only one with the time to listen to Cleo’s theory about where the stone might be hidden. As the theory develops, the pair embark on an adventure filled expedition of their own to learn the secrets of “Old Smenkers” and Rahotep, a temple servant.
When they realise they aren’t the only ones on this secret path, the hunt heats up. As they decipher the ancient and cryptic puzzles their goal is getting ever closer, but so are the unknown shadowy figures who have been following their every move. Will the next clue lead them to the hidden tomb? Who can they trust?
There is some great atmosphere created in the beginning of the book. You get a great sense of what the cramped conditions are like in the tomb, with its “clammy air exuding”. The detail of the historical background is excellent. While not all the characters are historical figures and some of the tales are from the writers own imaginings, you can still learn lots of facts about pharaohs and the life and culture in ancient Egypt.
Ryan and Cleo are very different characters, and they bounce well off each other. They offer the other a leg up into a different world, Cleo into the more lighthearted side and Ryan into the more scholarly. I particularly love the following exchange where Cleo really doesn’t get sarcasm.
“It’s hieroglyphs, not hieroglyphics,” she explained. “Hieroglyphic is the adjective, not the noun.”
Ryan slapped himself on the forehead. “Of course! I feel such a fool!”
Cleo smiled, pleased to have been of help.
The ending left me a bit disappointed. [Spoiler Alert] You forget where you are when you’re reading a book, it doesn’t matter that you have only ten pages left in your right hand, your brain is still wanting more action even though it knows there’s barely any of the book left. At the end of The Phoenix Code you go from high action to almost a dead stop. As you’re reading towards the end, our dynamic duo have managed to escape a very determined group of people with the greatest treasure. The bad guys have disappeared, it must be the calm before the storm. Ryan and Cleo have taken the prize that their whole mission is about, where will they appear from next to try and take it back? Cut to the next scene… and they live happily ever after. The End. The last few pages of the book neatly tie everything up, who the baddies were, how everything was dealt with and what is next up for the heroes.
Despite the abrupt ending, the book was very enjoyable. Because of the ending you could recommend it as a stand alone book or promote it to readers as a series. Listed as ideal for 9+, I would place it slightly higher than that but The Phoenix Code would make a good step before introducing readers to the similar topics in Rick Riordan’s series’.