By Barbara Steiner.
Lana is the ideal volunteer for her local museum’s Egyptian exhibition. Not only does she know everything about ancient Egypt, she even looks like a pharaoh’s bride. She could, it is remarked, be the reincarnation of Princess Urbena, the intended wife of Prince Nefra, who was supposedly murdered on the eve of his wedding, causing Urbena to commit suicide. Nefra’s mummified corpse and Urbena’s mysteriously vacant coffin are the highlights of the new exhibition, and Lana is obsessed with the doomed lovers; irresistibly drawn to the graven image of the handsome prince on his sarcophagus. She even starts to have vivid dreams where she is Urbena, going through the motions of the nights she and Nefra died.
But for many visitors to the museum, it is the priceless emerald necklace – a wedding gift from Nefra to his bride – which is the greatest draw, and which proves irresistible to a thief who smash and grabs the jewels right under Lana’s nose. Top of Lana’s list of suspects is Antef, a young Egyptian who has travelled with the artefacts from Cairo, to protect them. But when Antef is shut up in Urbena’s coffin – presumably by the real thief – Lana has doubts and starts to look elsewhere. Soon she is being subjected to threats – scorpions in her bedroom, a mummified cat thrown through her window – and they are using Lana’s resemblance to Urbena to frighten her, leaving notes in Nefra’s name telling her he wants them to be together again… All the while, her strange dreams and the bizarre attentions of a regal stray cat start to make Lana wonder whether she might actually be the reincarnated Urbana. And if someone really did murder the princess and her groom thousands of years ago – history might be about to repeat itself.
The Mummy is an intriguing whodunit, with particular appeal for anyone with an interest in Egyptology, or a fondness for museums. The varied, colourful cast – icy celeb-archaeologist Blair Vaughn; flirtatious, Brut-soaked Antef Raam; worldly history-nerd Rodney; and friendly, frumpy, fellow-volunteer Marge – entertains and keeps us guessing. There’s also a bonus scattering of possibly accurate ancient Egyptian trivia. Whilst the name conjures up Universal movie monster hijinks, the horror aspect is too often played down and that is frustrating. This mummy is a sad, romantic figure for our teenage heroine to fantasise and wonder about – a distraction from the very real threat she faces from a definitely human persecutor. It might not be what I hoped for from this title, but it’s a fun and memorable entry in the franchise.
Lana’s superstitions and romance with a musty old corpse aside, the main action of The Mummy is driven by a theft and a thief’s attempts to cover his tracks. The grand larceny and intimidating behaviour of the perpetrator are real-world acts. We know there’s a human being behind the danger, and that they will eventually be unmasked. Lana’s dreams about being an Egyptian princess, and hints there may be supernatural forces at work, tend to jar against the story we know is actually being told. They might be entertaining digressions, but they take up pages which could be used to throw a bit of danger or threat Lana’s way. As it is, the few attempts at horror peter out frustratingly, without our protagonist ever really being at risk. I never thought I’d say this about anything – but maybe if there was a bit less of the cat…?