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Sunday 27 September 2015

'Raiders of the Nile' by Steven Saylor

Published by Constable,
2 April 2015.
ISBN 978-1-4721-0197-6

Steven Saylor was one of the first to write a series set in Ancient Rome.  He published Roman Blood in 1991 and followed it with about a dozen books taking the series from 80BC to 46BC.  In 2012 he wrote a prequel about the eighteen year old Gordianus (his detective known as Gordianus the Finder).  Raiders of the Nile  follows on that prequel and is set in 88BC when Gordianus had reached the age of twenty two.  He is living in Alexandria with his Egyptian slave Bethesda with whom he is besotted.

On his birthday Gordianus takes Bethesda out into the town and she disappears while they are at a play, where they have seen an actress, Axiothea, with an uncanny resemblance to Bethesda.  The actress's patron receives a ransom demand for her from the gang of the Cuckoo's Child who are presumed to be keeping her in their lair in the dangerous Nile Delta - the Cuckoo's Nest.  In fact they have kidnapped the wrong girl - Bethesda.

Gordianus's desire for a quiet life is thwarted, he must track down the kidnappers to get her back before they realise that she is not who they think she is.  The book begins with our hero participating in a raid to steal the golden sarcophagus of Alexander the Great - not because he wants to but because he has joined these brigands in order to find Bethesda.

The rich tapestry that Saylor provides really illuminates the world of Egypt at that time when civil war seemed imminent.  All the small details of life help one's understanding of the era - Bethesda and Gordianus speak Greek together as that is the only language they have in common, breakfast is hot farina cooked with goat's milk and mashed dates eaten with bread,  The ambience is very much a Geek and Egyptian one not Roman.

As always there are many twists and turns on Gordianus's quest making this an exciting adventure story in which things are not always what they seem.
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer
As I have already indicated there are many other stories about Gordianus the Finder and there are other novels about Rome.

Steven Saylor was born in Texas in 1956 and graduated with high honors from the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied history and Classics. He divides his time between homes in Berkeley, California, and Austin, Texas. "If I could have another home," he says, "it would definitely be in London, my favourite big city in the world." When not using his brain, he likes to keep in shape running, swimming, and lifting weights.
Steven's books have been published in 21 languages, and book tours have taken him across the United States, England, and Europe. He has appeared as an expert on Roman life on The History Channel, and has spoken at numerous college campuses, The Getty Villa, and the International Conference on the Ancient Novel.

Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.

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