Papyrus was a semifinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel competition, garnering more than a hundred 5-star reviews.


Papyrus Summary

Rika Teferi, a former soldier in Eritrea’s war for independence, is working on her doctorate in the Cairo Museum when an accidental tea spill uncovers hidden writing on a papyrus written by Queen Tiye to her youngest son, Tutankhamun.  Horrified at the spill but aching to read the entire secret text  Rika agrees to let a visiting remote-sensing specialist, David Chamberlain, smuggle the priceless papyrus out of the museum and scan it with instruments on his aircraft.

The results show Tiye to have been the power behind the thrones of her husband and sons.  They also reveal that she was buried, not in Egypt, but in modern-day Sudan.  Rika and David devise a risky plan to find Tiye’s tomb.  But a major in the Secret Police misconstrues their covert activities as part of a fundamentalist plot to overthrow the Egyptian government and vows to kill them.

Reared in revolution, Rika feels a spiritual bond with Queen Tiye, a Nubian commoner who married Pharaoh and revolutionized Egyptian society by introducing a monotheistic religion that freed Egypt from the tyranny of the Amun priests.  Rika’s quest to find Tiye’s tomb parallels chapters reliving the queen’s last journey up the Nile, three thousand years before, to achieve immortality by being buried alive in a coffin of oils.  Throughout the story, Rika is torn between her passion for Tiye and her love of country.  If she finds the queen’s tomb, should she take from it only knowledge, or should she pilfer the valuable artifacts and sell them to buy arms that could tip the balance in Eritrea’s continuing battle against genocide?  In her growing love of David, she is also torn by the fear that he could never live in her culture, nor she in his.  These quandaries plague her until the shocking end.

Papyrus reached the semi-finals (top 1%) of the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition.

Papyrus Reviews

Kirkus Reviews: ""Oehler delivers a fusion of mainstream thriller and historical fiction, reminiscent of The Da Vinci Code. ... The novel is powered by intriguing scientific speculation, breathtaking locales, vivid description and references to Egyptian mythology. ... the plot is impressively knotty, the characters well-developed and the action virtually nonstop ... readers who enjoy intelligent, pedal-to-the-metal thrillers will find this archaeological escapade highly satisfying."

Publishers Weekly: “A compelling heroine, evocative setting and swashbuckling archeology highlight this entertaining and unusually thoughtful adventure.”

“Reminiscent of "DaVinci Code," though much better written.”

“The kind of book I would devour in a few days but would end up thinking about long after.”

“In a league with Michael Crichton and Dan Brown.”

“Imagine Indiana Jones as black and female. Yummy! This story's got legs. “Papyrus” has all the makings of a successful novel with high cinematographic quality. John Oehler hooks the reader immediately and keeps the adrenaline pumping.”

“Rika rocks! I can't remember when I have been as excited by an opening scene. Will move straight to the top of the international thriller class!”

“Riveted by Queen Tiye's decision … spellbound by Rika's story! Beautiful writing. Could something like this have actually happened? I think maybe, “Yes!”

“Two women separated by three thousand years are suddenly connected by an accidental spill of tea on an ancient papyrus.”

“Wow! Papyrus should begin with a warning: The reader will become completely hooked. The emotions, sounds, and descriptions made me feel as if I were there--feeling Rika's guilt, need for revenge, anger; then later her frustration at possibly returning to Eritrea as a failure. Mr. Oehler's writing is tight and strong, and the authenticity of the details engaging. This is the type of book I seek out, but rarely find anymore. It has action, history, and intrigue. … love to see it in the theater.”

“Action and Intrigue at Its Best. The writing here is so crisp, so fast-paced, you can't help but keep reading. This is an author with a real command of the language. I had the sense, once I was a few lines into the first, war-torn scene, that not only did the writing reflect the intensity of the action, it seemed to generate an action all its own. The main character is unearthing secrets from ancient Egypt, another is involved with remote sensing, and all juxtaposed against a backdrop of African politics, war, treachery.”

Read an Excerpt from Papyrus

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Behind The Scenes of Papyrus

Who was Queen Tiye?

Inside the history of Papyrus

In Papyrus, I describe Tiye as a Nubian commoner who married Amenhotep III, and I describe Tutankhamun as the last of their four known sons. Both of these portrayals are somewhat controversial. I’ll take up the Tutankhamun issue in another post. Here, I briefly discuss Tiye.

Origin of Papyrus

Egyptian Museum

The original idea for Papyrus came to me one afternoon in 1983 when I was wandering through some of the less-glamorous exhibits in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum and spotted a potential way for thieves to break in.

Photo Credits