One has seen a plethora of books dealing with real or imagined ancient mysteries, from the Da Vinci Code to the Rule of Four. I found the Rule of Four an intereresting read, given that it dealt with a very real mystery, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. I was delighted to find the Milwaukee Central Library actually had an original copy of this Renaissance manuscript.
The Third Translation deals with another ancient mystery manuscript, or stela in this case, the Stela of Paser. This is a hymn to the Egyptian Goddess Mut, from Karnak at Thebes, Egypt, dating back to about 1150 pre-C.E. The hieroglyphs are laid out on a grid, crossword like, allowing both horizontal and vertical interpretations. The mystery, yet unsolved, lies in the notation at the top of the Stela, that there are 'three ways' of reading the inscription. Much analysis and theory has been spent in finding the 'third translation'.
Dan Brown, or many other authors, would perhaps have used this as a springboard to reveal a secret conspiracy passed down the ages, one enveloping everyone from Yves St Laurent to Michelangelo. While Matt Bondurant does introduce a conspiracy, involving a modern-day cult dedicated to restoring Aten/Amun, it is not a conspiracy of the grandiose sort, made up instead of giant wrestlers, 'Krishnas' who turn out to be a group of 'Saudi and Egyptian Muslims operating some kind of stolen-artifacts ring to support extremist groups', and a half-mad, deranged collector of antiquities named Oldcastle.
The book encompasses much more interesting themes. It promises to make one an Egyptologist of sorts, or evoke an interest at the very least in the field. THe lead character, Dr Walter Rothschild, is an American Archaeologist on loan to the British Museum, and on contract to solve the Paser mystery. A woman influences him to show her the Stela, and rewards him, in a manner of speaking. She steals, not the Stela, but a mysterious Song of Amun.