Book Review: The Cairo Codex by Linda Lambert (West Hills Press; 324 pages; $15.95).
The Cairo Codex is a riveting novel of two women, two millennia apart, set in the exotic cultures of ancient and present-day Egypt. Dr. Justine Jenner has come to Cairo to forge her own path from the legacies of her parents, an Egyptian beauty and an American archaeologist. After an earthquake nearly buries her alive in an underground crypt, she discovers an ancient codex, written by a woman whose secrets threaten the foundations of both Christian and Muslim beliefs. As political instability rocks the region and the Muslim Brotherhood threatens to steal the Egyptian Revolution, Justine is thrust into a world where even those she trusts may betray her in order to control the codex’s revelations.
In The Cairo Codex, Linda Lambert, former state department envoy to Egypt and author of several books on leadership, plunges the reader into pre-revolutionary Egypt and allows us to witness a nation on the brink of a social uprising. This is a subject Lambert knows well, and her expertise makes The Cairo Codex utterly gripping. She could have easily set her tale in Iraq or Israel, but the effect would not be as great. Writers are frequently told to write what they know best. Lambert does just that, and it works beautifully.
Lambert combines history, mystery, and archaeology with romance, politics, and religion. Almost a decade ago, novels like these were abundant. Biblical thrillers were once all the rage most likely due to the success of Dan Brown’s bestseller The Da Vinci Code. Within the past few years, however, they have largely disappeared from shelves. Why, I have no clue. Perhaps the public grew tired of them, and their popularity waned. For me, at least, Lambert’s story was welcome. I always enjoyed reading these historical mysteries.
It always helps to have a strong protagonist, especially if it’s an independent and clever woman. Lambert’s main character, Justine Jenner, can be both tough and tender. She has her flaws just like we all do, leading us to cheer her on her successes and lament her failures.
Lambert also introduces a minor character of great interest, Omar Mostafa, as Director of the Supreme Ministry of Egyptian Antiquities. Mostafa will surely remind readers of Zahi Hawass, former Egyptian Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs under former President Hosni Mubarak.
The codex that Justine discovers could shake the foundations of all the world’s religions. I know what you’re thinking–so many thrillers that have anything to do with Christianity make similar claims and fall short. Not The Cairo Codex. Interesting and exciting, Lambert’s novel delivers.
The Cairo Codex is the first novel in The Justine Trilogy, and I eagerly await the sequel.