The Labyrinth of Osiris

The Labyrinth of Osiris

by Paul Sussman


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Detective Arieh-Ben Roi of the Jerusalem police is tasked with the investigation into the death of a well-known Israeli journalist, Rivka Kleinberg, who is found brutally murdered in a cathedral in Jerusalem. Known for her fearless exposés, Kleinberg had made many high-powered enemies, including international corporations, the Israeli government, and the Russian Mafia. Looking for leads, Ben-Roi begins researching which stories Kleinberg was working on before she died, and finds a connection to Egypt which confuses him.

At a stumbling block, Ben-Roi phones up his old friend, Yusuf Khalifa of the Luxor Police, and asks him if he will help him investigate the case. Khalifa is happy to help, and begins looking into another story that Kleinberg was researching just before her murder: the mysterious death of a British Egyptologist in the 1930s. This Egyptologist was said to have uncovered a giant labyrinth-like gold mine of incredible riches written about in the works of Herodotus. But what connection could this gold mine have with Kleinberg’s murder?

With a plot that moves from Israel to Egypt to Vancouver to Romania, The Labyrinth of Osiris is an intelligent, gripping novel from an internationally acclaimed master of thriller writing.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802121806
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 11/12/2013
Pages: 576
Sales rank: 574,623
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Paul Sussman (1966-2012) was a journalist, author and field archaeologist, whose first novel, The Lost Army of Cambyses, was an international best seller that was translated into twenty-eight languages. His books have sold over two million copies worldwide.

Read an Excerpt



Jerusalem, nine months later

It's dark in here, like the inside of a cave, which is good. It means she can't see me. Not properly. I am just a shadowy outline to her. As she is to me.

When I followed her in through the door she turned and looked straight at me. For a moment I thought she might know who I was, even in the gloom, even with the hood pulled down low over my face. Her expression was not one of recognition. More of expectation. Of hope. She turned away almost immediately and took no more notice of me. A late evening worshipper, that's probably what she thinks.

Now I am watching her. There are windows set high in the walls and up in the dome, but they're dirty and anyway it's almost dark outside. What little light there is comes from one of the brass lamps hanging from the ceiling at the far end of the cathedral. Even that does little more than soften the murk in the immediate vicinity. She is standing almost directly beneath the lamp, in front of the carved wooden screen that separates the altar area from the rest of the church. I'm near the doorway, on one of the cushioned benches that run around the walls. Outside the rain is hissing on the courtyard flagstones. The weather isn't what I expected, but it's useful. It means I can keep myself wrapped up. I don't want my face to be seen. Not by her, not by anybody.

The drape covering the doorway suddenly lifts and thuds. She looks round, thinking someone has come in. Realizing it is just the wind, she turns forward, towards the icon-covered shrine behind the altar. Her travel bag sits on the carpet at her feet. The bag is a problem. Or rather the journey the bag implies is a problem. It limits my timeframe. She seems to be waiting for someone, and that's a problem too. One I can handle. Two is more complicated. I might have to improvise. I might have to do it sooner than planned.

She wanders over to one of the four giant pillars supporting the dome. A painting is hanging from the pillar, a huge painting inside a heavy gilt frame. I can't see what the picture is. I don't care what the picture is. I'm staring at her and thinking. Calculating. Should I do it sooner than planned? I can smell incense.

She looks at the painting, then moves back to the altar-screen and lifts her arm, examining her watch. I can feel the Glock in the pocket of my coat, but I worry that even with the rain the noise will be heard, will bring people running. Better to do it the other way. How isn't the issue. When is the issue. I'm supposed to find out what she knows, but with the bag and the possibility of her meeting someone ...

She wanders off again. There are doors in the cathedral's side-wall, opening into what I think are small chapels, although it's too dark to be certain. She looks into each in turn, moving back towards me. Outside the nearest chapel an area of the carpeted floor is fenced off with a low wooden screen. She sits down on a bench inside the screen, barely visible. I grasp the wire, working everything through in my head, weighing the options. If only I wasn't supposed to interrogate her.

Now she's up again and coming towards me. I dip my head as if in prayer, keeping my face well hidden, staring down at my gloved hands. She walks right past, circling around the tiled walls back to the altar where she takes another look at her watch. Should I just keep following, see where she's going? Or do it now, while we're alone, while I've got the chance? I can't make the decision. Another few minutes pass. Then she picks up the travel bag, turns and heads for the door. As she comes level with me she stops.


I keep my eyes on the floor.

'Ata medaber Ivrit?'

I don't say anything. I don't want her to hear my voice. I feel tense suddenly.

'Do you speak English?'

I'm still looking at the floor. Very tense.

'Are you Armenian? I don't want to disturb you, but I'm looking for —'

I make the decision. Coming to my feet, I hit her hard underneath the jaw with the base of my palm. She staggers backwards. Even in the dark I can see blood bubbling from her mouth, a lot of blood, which makes me think the blow might have caused her to bite off the end of her tongue. It's a momentary thought. Almost immediately I am behind her and the garrotte is looped around her neck. I cross my wrists and yank hard on the toggles at each end of the wire, appreciating the grip they give me, the force I am able to exert on her windpipe. She is way bigger than me, but I have all the advantage. I kick away her legs and pull as hard as I can, arching my head back and holding her as she bucks and gurgles and claws at the wire. It lasts for less than thirty seconds, and then she goes limp. I keep pulling, making sure, absorbed in my work, not even thinking about the possibility of someone coming in and finding us, the wire biting deep into the flesh of her neck. Only when I am absolutely certain do I ease off and lower her to the floor. I feel elated.

I pause a moment to get my breath – I am breathing hard – then roll the wire into a neat loop, return it to my pocket and take a look through the door-drape into the courtyard. It is rain-swept and deserted. I allow the drape to drop, take out my pocket torch and play it across the carpet around the body. There are a few barely noticeable speckles, but most of the blood from her mouth seems to have been absorbed by her raincoat and jumper, which is good. I squeeze the sides of her jaw, opening the mouth. Although she has bitten deep into her tongue, it is still in one piece, which is also good. I feel in her pocket, find a handkerchief and stuff it in to prevent more mess. Then I shine the torch around the cathedral. I need to buy myself some time, can't have her being found just yet. I know where she lives and will go there afterwards, but for the moment I require somewhere secret. I dislike improvising, but hopefully it should all turn out OK.

* * *

Detective Arieh Ben-Roi of the Jerusalem Police narrowed his eyes and gazed into the murk, watching intently as the body was outlined to him. It seemed to be curled into a ball, and for a moment he couldn't be sure exactly what was what. Only slowly did the form become clear – head, torso, arms, legs. He shook his head, barely able to believe what he was looking at. Then he smiled and squeezed Sarah's hand.

'He's beautiful.'

'We don't know it is a "he" yet.'

'She's beautiful too.'

He craned forward, staring at the grainy image on the ultrasound screen. It was Sarah's third scan – their third scan – and even at twenty-four weeks he was still struggling to get to grips with the precise configuration of the baby (although he hadn't repeated his howler of the twelve-week scan when he had pointed out what he proudly assumed was an extremely large penis only to be told it was actually the baby's thigh bone).

'Is everything OK?' he asked the sonographer. 'Everything where it should be?'

'It all looks fine,' the girl assured him, sliding the scanner back and forth over the jellied parabola of Sarah's tummy. 'I just need Baby to turn so I can measure the spine.'

She squirted out more jelly and drove the scanner in just below the belly button. The image on the screen bulged and blurred as she struggled to get the angle she needed.

'Baby's being a bit stubborn today.'

'Wonder where he gets that from,' said Sarah.

'Or she,' put in Ben-Roi.

The operator continued probing, holding the scanner with one hand while with the other she manipulated the control pad beneath the screen, isolating still images of different parts of the foetus, taking readings and measurements.

'Heartbeat's good,' she said. 'Uterine blood flow's fine, the limbs are all within normal developmental —'

A blare of music interrupted her. Loud, electronic. 'Hava Nagila'.

'Nu be'emet, Arieh!' groaned Sarah. 'I told you to turn it off.'

Ben-Roi gave an apologetic shrug. Popping open a pouch on his belt, he pulled out his Nokia cell phone.

'He can never turn it off,' she sighed, addressing the sonographer, seeking sisterly support. 'Not even for his child's scan. Always it's on, night and day.'

'I'm a policeman, for God's sake.'

'You're a father, for God's sake!' 'Fine, I won't answer it. They can leave a message.'

Ben-Roi dangled the phone in his hand and allowed it to ring, making a show of leaning forward and staring at the screen. Sarah grunted. She'd seen it all before.

'Watch,' she whispered to the sonographer.

For five seconds Ben-Roi sat there, apparently absorbed in the ultrasound image. As the strains of 'Hava Nagila' continued to blast out, tinny and insistent, he started to tap his foot, then jiggle his arm, then shift around in his seat as if itching. Eventually, unable to stop himself, he glanced down at the phone, checking the incoming number. He was on his feet immediately.

'I've got to get this. It's the station.'

He moved across to the corner of the room and brought the phone up to his ear, accepting the call. Sarah rolled her eyes.

'Ten seconds.' She sighed. 'I'm amazed he lasted that long. It's only his baby, after all.'

The girl gave her a reassuring pat on the arm and resumed her examination. On the far side of the room Ben-Roi listened and talked, keeping his voice low. After a few moments he ended the call and slipped the Nokia back into its beltholder.

'I'm sorry, Sarah, I have to go. Something's come up.'

'What's come up? Tell me, Arieh. What's so important that it can't wait five minutes till we've finished the scan?' 'Just something.'

'What? I want to know.'

Ben-Roi was pulling on his jacket.

'I'm not going to have an argument, Sarah. Not with you ...'

He nodded towards her bare belly, the skin gleaming and slippery with ultrasound jelly, auburn wisps of pubic hair clearly visible within the opened V of her jeans front. The gesture seemed to rile her further.

'I appreciate your consideration,' she snapped, 'but I'm more than happy to argue like this. Now please enlighten me, what's so important that it takes precedence over the health of your baby?'

'Bubu's fine, she just said so.'

Ben-Roi flicked a hand towards the ultrasound operator, who was staring hard at the screen, trying to keep out of it.

'Thirty minutes, Arieh. That's all I ask of you. That for thirty minutes you forget about the force and give us your undivided attention. Is that too much?'

Ben-Roi could feel his temper rising, not least because he knew he was in the wrong. He held up hands, palms out, as much to tell himself to calm down as Sarah.

'I'm not going to argue,' he repeated. 'Something's come up and I'm needed. That's the end of it. I'll call you.'

He bent and kissed her head, threw a last look at the screen and crossed to the door. As he went out into the corridor he heard Sarah's voice behind him.

'He can't let go. It's why I had to end it. Even for thirty minutes. He just can't let go.'

He listened as the sonographer offered words of comfort, then pulled the door to.

Nothing in his life had ever brought him quite the degree of happiness he felt at the prospect of being a father. Nor, he reflected as he walked away, quite the degree of guilt.

Hadassah Hospital sat near the top of Mount Scopus, and the antenatal unit was in a suite near the top of the hospital. As he waited for the lift to take him down to the ground floor, Ben-Roi gazed out of a window, looking north across the Judaean Hills. In the distance he could just make out the drably uniform housing of the settlement suburbs of Pisgat Amir and Pisgat Ze'ev; closer were the equally drab, if more jumbled Palestinian tenements of Anata and the Shu'fat refugee camp. It was a forlorn landscape at the best of times: ugly swathes of housing interspersed with equally ugly swathes of hillside, rocky and rubbish strewn. Today it looked positively bleak, what with the curtains of rain drifting down from a leaden sky.

He glanced back at the lift, then out again, tracing the line of the Wall as it curled around Shu'fat and Anata, cutting them off from the rest of East Jerusalem. It was a subject that was guaranteed to get Sarah ranting, even more than his police work. 'An obscenity,' she called it. 'A shame on our nation. We might as well make them all wear yellow stars.'

Ben-Roi was inclined to agree, although not in such in flammatory terms. The Wall had reduced the number of bombings, no question, but at what cost? He knew a Palestinian garage owner, a mild-mannered man up in Ar-Ram. Every morning for twenty years he had walked the fifty metres from his house across the road to his garage, and every evening he had walked the fifty metres back again. Then the Wall had been built and suddenly there were six metres of vertical concrete separating him from his place of work. Now to get to his pumps he had to go round and through the Kalandia checkpoint, turning a thirty-second journey into a two-hour one. It was a story that was repeated the length of the barrier – farmers cut off from their fields, children from their schools, families divided. Go for the terrorists by all means, smash the bastards, but to punish a whole population? How much more anger did that generate? How much more hatred? And who was on the front line dealing with all that anger and hatred? Schmucks like him.

'Welcome to the promised land,' he muttered, turning as lift doors pinged open behind him.

Down in the car park he got into his white Toyota Corolla and drove out and down on to Hebrew University Road and then Derekh Ha-Shalom, back towards the Old City. The morning traffic was light and he reached the Jaffa Gate in ten minutes. Once through the gate, however, he found himself locked in a vice of stationary traffic. The municipality were upgrading the road system around the Citadel, reducing two lanes to one, clogging Omar Ibn al-Khattab Square and the top end of David Street. They'd already been at it for eighteen months and by all accounts had at least another year to go. Normally the traffic managed to get through, albeit at a crawl. Today a lorry was stuck trying to reverse out of Greek Catholic Patriarchate Street and no one was going anywhere.

'Chara,' muttered Ben-Roi. 'Shit.'

He sat tapping the wheel, staring ahead at a large hoarding carrying an artist's impression of what the new road layout would look like, accompanied by the logo: 'Barren Corporation: Proud to be sponsoring Jerusalem's future history.' Occasionally he pumped the horn, adding to the cacophony of irate hooting that already filled the air, and twice lowered the window and bellowed 'Yallah titkadem, maniak!' at the truck driver. The rain hammered down, sending rivulets of muddy water streaming across the street from the roadworks.

He gave it five minutes, then lost patience. Retrieving his police light from the passenger footwell, he slapped it on to the roof, plugged the jack into its socket and hit the siren. That got things moving. The lorry driver shunted forward, the log-jam broke and Ben-Roi was able to drive the hundred metres round the corner to the David Police Station.

Kishle, as the station was generally known – the Turkish word for prison, the purpose it had served under Ottoman rule – was a long, two-storey building that dominated the southern end of the square, its grilled windows and stained, stone-block walls lending it an air of dour shabbiness. There was another Kishle up in Nazareth, widely considered the most beautiful police station in Israel. It was not an adjective Ben-Roi would have used to describe his own workplace.

The guard in the security post recognized him and retracted the electronic gate, waving him past. He drove through the arched entranceway and along the twenty-metre tunnel that cut through the middle of the building, emerging into the large compound at the rear. A stable block and horse exercise area occupied the compound's far end, with beside them a low, innocuous building that looked like a storehouse but in fact housed the city's bomb-disposal unit. All the rest of the space was taken up with parked cars and vans, a few with police number plates – red with the letter M for Mishteret – most with yellow civilian ones. Ben-Roi had a set of both, although he generally used the civilian ones. No point advertising he was a cop.

He slowed and swung into a space between a pair of Polaris Ranger ATVs. As he climbed out of the car someone held an umbrella over his head.

'Toda, Ben-Roi. You just won me fifty shekels.'

A paunchy, bearded man handed him a cup of Turkish coffee. Uri Pincas, a fellow detective.


Excerpted from "The Labyrinth of Osiris"
by .
Copyright © 2012 Paul Sussman.
Excerpted by permission of Grove Atlantic, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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