Monday, 24 January 2011

A bit of fun on a Monday – Book Review: Cigars of the Pharaoh

It had been a busy weekend and I was feeling knackered so any of you who follow my twitter feed would have been unsurprised when I wrote that I was climbing into a hot bath with a gin and tonic and a copy of the Turgenev book that I am currently reading. The first of these evening activities came true and I was sipping on some delicious artisan gin as a hot bath ran but glancing at my copy of ‘Smoke’ by the great Russian author the words started to boggle on the page and I realised that this was not the night to be attempting to explore the Russian enlightenment! So, returning to my bookshelves I tried to think of something that would occupy my evening without disrupting the course of my journey through serf emancipation, political firebrands and earnest thinkers…Cue Cigars of The Pharaoh.

Perhaps the most iconic of all the Tintin books Cigars of the Pharaoh is a fantastic blend of action, adventure and comedy taking place over a variety of exotic location. This particular annal in the chronicles of the boy reporter sees him tailing a drugs ring from Port Said via Cairo, The Red Sea, Saudi Arabia and finally on to Rajasthan where he temporarily succeeds in smashing the ring ( See my forthcoming review of The Blue Lotus for more details!). As well as putting Tintin into a number of precarious situations such as accidently uncovering a group of gun runners, getting doped and bound in a sarcophagus which is throw into the sea and being framed by his enemies and flung into an insane asylum, this book introduces the reader to two of the best loved characters in the world of Tintin, the bumbling detectives, Thompson and Thomson.

This inept twosome make their debut in Cigars and their comedic antics subsequently provided many of the lighter moments in volumes to come. Whilst a welcome hinderance later in the series, in this book they are an unwelcome presence to Tintin as they have been sent by CID (which I can only imagine is some offshoot of the Belgian police) to arrest our hero on a charge of drug smuggling. In itself this is one of the best plot devices in the film as it opens up the central theme of the book, opium trafficking. However the Thompsons soon provide the reader with the bizarre slapstick that they have become so endearing for, this is coupled with their dismal attempts to blend in with the locale by dressing like the natives – it is often through this that they become unstuck and it is not unusual for them to become tangled in their clothing and tripping up.

My favourite villain is also introduced in this episode, the Greek-American Millionaire, Roberto Rastapopoulus who would (like Dr. Gerhard Muller, Col. Jurgen and Col. Spontz) become one of the protagonist’s arch-nemeses! with his lacklustre henchman, Captain Allen, Rastapopoulus is a fantastic old-school villain plucked straight from the golden age of Hollywood, I wouldn’t have been surprised if a more serious caricature of him had appeared in a Scott-Fitzgerald novel of the same name!

Full of excitement, suspense and adventure Cigars of the Pharaoh is a fantastic caper which defined the early Tintin Adventures where more serious issues were confronted than in later stories! It is my personal favourite and I have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone who wants some light relief from the excitement of a manic Monday. 

1 comment:

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