Raiders of the Nile

( 7 )

Overview

In 88 B.C. it seems as if all the world is at war. From Rome to Greece and to Egypt itself, most of civilization is on the verge of war. The young Gordianus—a born-and-raised Roman citizen—is living in Alexandria, making ends meet by plying his trade of solving puzzles and finding things out for pay. He whiles away his time with his slave Bethesda, waiting for the world to regain its sanity. But on the day Gordianus turns twenty-two, Bethesda is kidnapped by brigands who mistake her for a rich man’s mistress. ...

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Raiders of the Nile

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Overview

In 88 B.C. it seems as if all the world is at war. From Rome to Greece and to Egypt itself, most of civilization is on the verge of war. The young Gordianus—a born-and-raised Roman citizen—is living in Alexandria, making ends meet by plying his trade of solving puzzles and finding things out for pay. He whiles away his time with his slave Bethesda, waiting for the world to regain its sanity. But on the day Gordianus turns twenty-two, Bethesda is kidnapped by brigands who mistake her for a rich man’s mistress. If Gordianus is to find and save Bethesda, who has come to mean more to him than even he suspected, he must find the kidnappers before they realize their mistake and cut their losses. Using all the skills he learned from his father, Gordianus must track them down and convince them that he can offer something of enough value in exchange for Bethesda’s release.

As the streets of Alexandria slowly descend into chaos, and the citizenry begin to riot with rumors of an impending invasion by Ptolmey’s brother, Gordianus finds himself in the midst of a very bold and dangerous plot—the raiding and pillaging of the golden sarcophagus of Alexander the Great himself.

New York Times bestselling author Steven Saylor returns, chronicling the early years of his detective, Gordianus, before he assumed the title of The Finder. Raiders of the Nile is the latest in his much-loved series of mysteries set in the late Roman Republic.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
12/09/2013
Spot-on period detail and tight plotting elevate bestseller Saylor’s 14th novel featuring ancient Roman sleuth Gordianus the Finder (after 2012’s The Seven Wonders). In 88 B.C.E. Alexandria, Gordianus celebrates his turning 22 with his lover—and slave—Bethesda, who disappears after they take in a satiric play mocking King Ptolemy that’s broken up by the monarch’s soldiers. Since one of the performers could pass as Bethesda’s twin—and she’s vanished as well—finding his sweetheart’s whereabouts is complicated, and sets Gordianus on the trail of brigands known as the Cuckoo’s Gang. Subsequent events loop back to the dramatic opening, in which the detective-to-be is involved in a plan to steal the golden sarcophagus of Alexander the Great. While series fans may hope for an eventual return to the continuing story line of the older Gordianus, last visited in 2008’s The Triumph of Caesar, both they and newcomers will find this outing entertaining. Agent: Alan Nevins, Renaissance Literary and Talent. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
“If you’re going to tour the ancient world, you could find no better guide than Saylor, who has proven his mastery of the form” —USA Today on The Seven Wonders

“A vivid and robust writer, Saylor invests his books with exquisite detail and powerful drama.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer on A Mist of Prophecies

“As always, Saylor excels at bringing the past alive, in particular by incorporating the political issues of the day into the action.” —Publishers Weekly (starred) on The Seven Wonders

“Vivid….Saylor has found a marvelous way to bring Roman history and mores alive. This is an excellent entryway to ancient Rome.” –Booklist (starred review) on The Seven Wonders

“Saylor's ability to re-create the classical world is always astounding, and The Seven Wonders is no exception. Expertly researched and beautifully written… A thoroughly enjoyable read.” –The Deseret News

“Steven Saylor’s engrossing series centers around Gordianus the Finder—a kind of Roman Sherlock Holmes.” –The Wall Street Journal on The Triumph of Caesar

Kirkus Reviews
2014-02-19
Saylor's (The Seven Wonders, 2012, etc.) latest historical adventure chronicles young Gordianus' adventures as he gets trapped in a scheme to loot Alexander the Great's sarcophagus. Son of the famous Gordianus the Finder, young Gordianus has traveled to Alexandria, Egypt, in 88 B.C. There, he too works as a finder, adding a few coins to his purse, but his treasure is Bethesda, a beautiful slave he's taken into his bed—and his heart. Celebrating Gordianus' 22nd birthday, the couple watches a street-mime troupe. One of the performers is beautiful Axiothea, who looks so much like Bethesda she could be her twin. After the ribald performance is broken up by King Ptolemy's troopers, Bethesda disappears. Gordianus learns she's been mistaken for Axiothea, who's thought to be the mistress of wealthy merchant Trafhapy. Bethesda's being held for ransom in the Nile delta by a thief known as the Cuckoo's Child, and therein the plot: Gordianus treks into the wilderness looking for Bethesda, accompanied by opportunistic Djet, Trafhapy's slave boy. The pair finds the Cuckoo's Nest—think Butch Cassidy's Hole-in-the-Wall—but the quest is made even more dangerous by the fact that the Cuckoo's Child, Artemon, has fallen in love with Bethesda. Then Gordianus finds himself tangled in Artemon's scheme to loot Alexander's tomb, part of a wider conspiracy involving Ptolemy's brother Soter. Saylor's action runs nonstop, from political unrest to murders at a rural inn to a mob seeking to kill Gordianus to a pirate raid on Alexandria. Gordianus leaps from the pages as a modern trope—a wisecracking, good-hearted charmer—and Saylor frames him against an entrancing interpretation of ancient Egypt, from slaves, sun, mosquitoes, brothels and markets to derring-do swordplay, the Pharos Lighthouse and the vibrant streets of the fabled city. Fans of James Lee Burke or Lee Child will enjoy a two-millennium time shift to tour the dark corners of ancient Egypt.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250015976
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 2/25/2014
  • Series: Roma Sub Rosa Series , #14
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 93,048
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

STEVEN SAYLOR is the author of acclaimed historical mystery novels featuring Gordianus the Finder, including The Triumph of Caesar, as well as the internationally bestselling historical novels Empire and Roma.  He has appeared on the History Channel as an expert on Roman politics and life.  He divides his time between Berkeley, California, and Austin, Texas.

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Read an Excerpt

I

 

 

Like any young Roman who found himself living in the most exciting city on earth—Alexandria, capital of Egypt—I had a long list of things I wanted to do, but taking part in a raid to steal the golden sarcophagus of Alexander the Great had never been among them.

And yet, there I found myself, on a morning in the month we Romans call Maius, doing just that.

The tomb of the city’s founder is located in a massive, ornate building in the heart of the city. A towering frieze along one side depicts the exploits of the world conqueror. The moment of inspiration that gave birth to the city itself, some 240 years ago, is vividly depicted on the frieze: Alexander stands atop a sand dune, staring at the shore and the sea beyond while his architects, surveyors, and engineers gaze up at him in wonder, clutching their various instruments.

So realistically sculpted and painted was this massive frieze that I almost expected the giant image of the conqueror to suddenly turn his head and peer down at us as we scurried below him, heading toward the building’s entrance. I would not have been surprised to see him raise an eyebrow and inquire in a booming, godlike voice, “Where in Hades do you fellows think you’re going? Why are some of you brandishing swords? And what is that the rest of you carry—a battering ram?”

But Alexander remained immobile and mute as my companions and I rushed past him and surged into the colonnaded entranceway.

On this day the tomb was closed to visitors. An iron gate barred entry to the vestibule. I was among those who carried the battering ram. We pivoted into formation, perpendicular to the gate. As Artemon, our leader, counted to three, we heaved the ram forward, then back, then forward again with all our might. The gate shuddered and buckled at the impact.

“Again!” shouted Artemon. “On my count! One—two—three!”

Each time the ram butted against it, the gate moaned and shrieked, as if it were a living thing. On our fourth heave, the gate flew open. Those of us carrying the battering ram retreated back into the street and tossed it aside while the vanguard of our party, led by Artemon, rushed through the sundered gate. I drew my sword and followed them into the vestibule. Dazzling mosaics celebrating the life of Alexander decorated every surface from the floor to the domed ceiling high above, where an opening admitted sunlight to shimmer across the millions of pieces of colored glass and stone.

Ahead of me, I saw that only a handful of armed men offered resistance. These guardians of the tomb looked surprised, frightened, and ready to run—and who could blame them? We greatly outnumbered them. They also looked rather old to be bearing arms, with weathered, wrinkled faces and gray eyebrows.

Why were there so few guards, and why were they of such a low grade? Artemon had told us that the city was in chaos, wracked by daily riots. All the most able-bodied soldiers had been summoned by King Ptolemy to protect the royal palace, leaving only this feeble handful to defend the Tomb of Alexander. Perhaps the king thought that even the most violent mob would never dare to violate such a sacred place, especially in broad daylight. But Artemon had out-foxed him. “Our greatest advantage will be the element of surprise,” he had told us, and it appeared that he was correct.

I heard a clash of swords, followed by screams. I had deliberately volunteered to man the battering ram, so as to avoid being on the front line of whatever battle might take place. I wanted no blood on my hands, if I could possibly avoid it. But was I really less guilty than my comrades ahead of me, who were gleefully hacking away with their swords?

You may wonder why I was taking part in such a criminal act. I had been compelled to join these bandits against my will. Still, might I not have slipped away at some point and escaped? Why did I stay with them? Why did I continue to follow Artemon’s orders? Did I do so out of fear, or misplaced loyalty, or simple greed for the share of gold we had all been promised?

No. I did what I did for her—for the sake of that crazy slave girl who had somehow got herself kidnapped by these bandits.

What sort of Roman would stoop to such criminal behavior for the sake of a girl, and a mere slave at that? The blinding Egyptian sun must have driven me mad, that I should find myself in such a spot!

As I rushed through the vestibule, toward the wide corridor that led to the sarcophagus, I realized I was whispering her name: “Bethesda!” Was she still well, and unharmed? Would I ever see her again?

I slipped on a pool of blood. As I spun my arms to balance myself, I looked down and saw the pale face of a fallen guard. His lifeless eyes were wide open and his mouth was set in a grimace. The poor old fellow might have been someone’s grandfather!

One of my companions helped to steady me. Careless fool! I thought. You might have broken your neck! You might have fallen on your own sword! What would have become of Bethesda then?

I heard the sounds of another battle ahead of us, but its duration was brief. By the time I stepped into the chamber, only one guard remained standing, and even as I watched, Artemon stabbed him in the belly. The poor fellow crumpled lifeless to the hard granite floor. His sword fell beside him with a clatter, and then a hush fell over the crowded room.

Lamps set in niches in the walls provided the only illumination. Though it was bright daylight outside, here all was dim light and shadow. Before us, raised upon a low dais, was a massive sarcophagus. In form and style it was partly Egyptian, like the angular mummy cases of the ancient pharaohs, and partly Greek, with carvings along the sides that depicted the exploits of Alexander—the taming of the steed Bucephalus, the triumphal entry into the Gates of Babylon, the terrifying battle with the elephant cavalry of the Indus. The gleaming sarcophagus, made of solid gold, was encrusted with precious stones, including the dazzling green gem called the emerald mined from the mountains of southernmost Egypt. The sarcophagus glittered in the flickering light of the lamps, an object of breathtaking splendor and of value beyond calculation.

“Well, what do you make of that?”

I shivered, as if startled from a dream. Artemon stood beside me. His bright eyes sparkled and his handsome features seemed to glow in the ruddy light.

“It’s magnificent,” I whispered. “More magnificent than I ever imagined.”

He grinned, flashing perfect white teeth, then raised his voice. “Did you hear that, men? Even our Roman comrade is impressed! And Pecunius”—that was the name by which he knew me—“is not easily impressed, for has he not seen the Seven Wonders of the World, as he never tires of telling us? What do you say, Pecunius—is this sarcophagus the equal of those Wonders?”

“Can it really be made of solid gold?” I whispered. “The weight must be enormous!”

“Yet we have the means to move it.”

Even as Artemon spoke, some of the men brought forth winches, pulleys, lengths of rope, and wooden shims. Another group appeared from the vestibule wheeling a sturdy wagon down the wide corridor. The wagon was loaded with a lidded wooden crate made especially for our cargo. Artemon had thought of everything. Suddenly he looked to me like the young Alexander as depicted on the frieze of the building, a visionary surrounded by adoring architects and engineers. Artemon knew what he wanted and had a plan to achieve it. He inspired fear in his enemies and confidence in his followers. He knew how to bend others to his will. Certainly he had succeeded at making me do as he wanted, against all my better judgment.

The wagon was wheeled into place alongside the dais. The top of the crate was lifted off. The inside was padded with blankets and straw.

A hoisting mechanism was deployed to remove the lid of the sarcophagus.

“Should we be opening the sarcophagus?” I said, feeling a prickle of superstitious dread.

“The lid and the sarcophagus are both very heavy,” said Artemon. “They’ll be easier to manipulate if we separate them and lift them one at a time.”

As the lid began to rise above the sarcophagus, a thought occurred to me.

“What will become of the body?” I asked.

Artemon looked at me sidelong but did not speak.

“You’re not going to hold it for ransom, are you?”

He laughed at the look on my face. “Of course not. The remains of Alexander will be handled with utmost respect, and will be left here where they belong, in his tomb.”

Robbing a mummified corpse of its sarcophagus hardly constituted respect, I thought. Artemon seemed to be amused by my misgivings.

“Here, Pecunius, let’s have a look at the mummy before we remove it from the sarcophagus. They say the state of preservation is quite remarkable.”

He took my arm and together we stepped onto the dais. As the lid was hoisted onto the wagon, the two of us peered over the edge of the sarcophagus.

So it came to pass that I, Gordianus of Rome, at the age of twenty-two, in the city of Alexandria and in the company of cutthroats and bandits, found myself face to face with the most famous mortal who ever lived.

For a man who had been dead over two hundred years, the conqueror’s features were remarkably well preserved. His eyes were closed, as if he slept, but his eyelashes were perfectly intact. I could almost imagine that he might suddenly blink and gaze back at me.

“Look out!” someone shouted.

I turned around to see that we had company—not royal soldiers, but a handful of regular citizens, no doubt outraged at the desecration of their city’s most sacred monument. A few had daggers. The rest were armed only with clubs and stones.

As Artemon’s men fell on the newcomers, cutting them down and driving them back, one of the angry citizens raised his arm and took aim at me. I saw the jagged rock hurtle toward me.

Artemon grabbed my arm and pulled me sharply to one side, but too late. I felt a sharp blow against my head. The world turned upside down as I fell from the dais onto the wagon, striking my head against one corner of the crate. Groggily, I drew back and saw blood—my blood—on the wood. Then everything went black.

How had I come to such a sorry pass?

Let me tell you the story.

 

Copyright © 2014 by Steven Saylor

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2014

    Cardinal call

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    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2014

    Just couldn't get into it

    I tried, but it was just downright boring. Nothing happening but the lead character's obsession with his slave girl. There's only so much you can take of him ogling her. No plot.

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  • Posted April 11, 2014

    Another Home Run!

    I have read almost everything that Steven has written, as I find him to be a wonderful writer. This latest in the Sub-Rosa series is as good as all of the previous one. I look forward to many more from Steven.

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  • Posted March 21, 2014

    prequel for gordianus series

    Having read the Gordianus series and the other prequel to the series written by Saylor, I can say it is well written but not as gripping as the series books when Gordianus is practicing the art of detection in Rome.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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