In all the hubbub and activity of getting my mom moved and settled in here in Maine, I’ve scarcely had time to think about the other big event this week, the event I’ve been waiting for all year: the release of my new book, THE KEEPSAKE.
It goes on sale today. Over at Murderati I’ve just blogged about what it feels like to have a new book come out. Hop on over there, if you’d like to know what neurotic writers (or maybe all writers?) experience with the release of a new book.
And here’s a piece I wrote for Amazon.com about THE KEEPSAKE, in case you’re wondering how on earth I happened to write a book about such weird archaeological topics:
Everybody loves mummies, and I’m no exception. I was an anthropology student in college, and I spent many hours in the Stanford University Museum basement, examining and cataloguing boxes of human remains from North American burial sites. But ancient Egypt has held my deepest fascination, and I don’t think I’m alone in this fascination. In any museum, you’ll find that everyone seems to crowd around the Egyptian mummy exhibits. We all want to know about mummies, and how they were made.
I discovered that there are about 250 mummies in the United States, many of them brought back as souvenirs by American tourists over a hundred years ago. In the 1800’s, you could buy a mummy in Egypt for only five dollars. I’m astonished and appalled that anyone would consider human remains as a souvenir, but in those days, Americans and Europeans had little respect for the dead of Egypt. And so they brought them home. They’d hold unwrapping parties for their friends, peeling away the linen strips to reveal the corpses beneath. Countless mummies were exported, and here in America, they ended up in the most unlikely of places. In antique shops, in attics, in freak shows. And in museums.
In the early days of Egyptology, mummies were certainly not treated with respect. But modern Egyptologists no longer unwrap them to study them; instead, mummies are studied using noninvasive techniques such as X-rays and CT scans, which give us an intimate view of the corpses without damaging them. I had the privilege of watching just such a CT scan myself, where the secrets of a mummy were revealed — everything from his sex to his age to the cause of death.
This is where the idea of THE KEEPSAKE came from. What if a Boston museum discovers a 2,000-year-old Egyptian mummy in the basement? What if they proceeded to study it, and sent it to a hospital for a CT scan? What if they discover something shocking: a bullet in the leg?
Suddenly, this becomes a homicide case. It draws the atatention of Detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles, who must track down a killer who has obscure archaeological knowledge. A killer who has been preserving his victims using gruesome ancient techniques.
THE KEEPSAKE allowed me to delve into some of the most bizarre and frightening ancient rituals. Did you ever wonder how the Egyptians mummified a body? Or how headhunters could shrink a human head to a fraction of its size? This killer knows.
And by the end of THE KEEPSAKE, so will you.