Friday, May 16, 2014


ANYONE who neglects to read Steven Saylor's RAIDERS OF THE NILE, which has just been released in Britain, will be soundly lashed, hung upside-down for three days and then fed to a crocodile.

At the very least!

Gordianus the Finder is back ... younger and more daring than ever ... in this prequel to the series of novels 20 years ago which featured Gordianus as a mature sleuth in the waning days of the Roman Republic ... and which established Saylor as a major writer.

A metamorphosis has occurred, befitting a Classical myth: A generation ago, Saylor was a young author writing about a middle-aged Gordianus who had an established reputation for solving inscrutable mysteries by means of his sage deductions. 

Now, Gordianus is a randy and somewhat naive 22-year-old who has a lot to learn ... and Saylor is the mature author with an established reputation for deftly guiding his readers through a tangle of clues as dense as any papyrus thicket in the marshes of the Nile Delta.

This superb historical novel works on so many levels ... as an adventure mystery yarn with the thrills and spills of any Indiana Jones flick ... and also as a brilliant literary spoof of Classical literature which will make scholars nod in recognition.

The story has all the elements of Greek tragicomedic literature: Lovers torn from each other's arms ... mistaken identities ... abductions ... pirates ... poisonings ... rapes ... cuckoldry ... buffoonish potentates ... smart-aleck slaves ... men dressed up as women .... 

Why, there's a Spielbergian cute kid who squeals and gives away secrets at the most inopportune times.

And there's even a cowardly lion whose uncharacteristic courage saves the day.

But this is a novel by Steven Saylor, after all, whose epic best-seller ROMA traced the history of Rome from its founding as a cluster of mud huts on the banks of the Tiber to the city of marble which would influence Western Civilization for all time.

His scholarship is no less meticulous for this novel, set in Ptolemaic Egypt in the chaotic days of the 1st Century BC just before Julius Caesar stepped in to "save" the Egyptians from themselves ... and end Egyptian sovereignty for 1,900 years to come.

As always, his characters are richly drawn and developed. The plot is writhing with villains and brigands, cut-throats and pirates. 

But in the best tradition of the Greek tragicomic novels Saylor used as the basis of this book, each character is more than what it appears to be at first glance. Good and evil dwell in every heart.

This is masterful writing by a master story-teller. 

Other successful writers become jaded and formulaic with success ... and age. But Saylor has rejuvenated not only his protagonist, but also his skills as a story-teller. 

In many ways Raiders of the Nile is the best book for first-time Saylor readers ... the book which best introduces a new reader not only to Gordianus the Finder, but also to Steven Saylor.

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