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by Paul Doherty
Carroll & Graf, July 2003
288 pages
ISBN: 0786711574

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

The third in Doherty's Alexander the Great series, this story takes place in 334 B.C. at the siege of Halicarnassus, the most strongly fortified city in Asia Minor. For many reasons, including his goal to rule the known world, Alexander felt he must capture this city and he brought his army close to the Great Walls that surrounded the city on three sides.

Inside the seemingly impregnable city, Memnon of Rhodes, the Persian Orontobatis, and the Greek renegade Ephialtes plotted the destruction of the 'Macedonian Wolf.' They had a spy within Alexander's inner circle and they were counting on him to tell them the general's plans.

Alexander's boyhood friend and personal physician Telamon was in that inner circle. There were also several scribes, including Pamenes, who were working to translate the Phythian Manuscript, written in cipher by the architect of Halicarnassus's defenses, which was believed to identify a weak location in the fortifications as well as the place where the architect's fortune had been buried.

Pamenes appeared to have fallen from a locked room and killed himself, but Telamon was certain there was a murderer as well as a spy in camp. Other deaths forced Telamon to investigate.

The picture of Alexander presented here is intriguing and fascinating. He is, of course, a many-faceted man, an actor as well as a soldier, a man who delights in keeping secrets from his friends as well as his enemies, a man haunted by his parents, and driven by ambition fiercer than anything we have ever felt. He is a killer and a lover of plays. He is loyal to death and punishes disloyalty with death. We have probably never since seen the likes of this man.

This novel portrays a world where nothing is safe and nothing is certain, where every step brings danger, and every glance sees treason. You can trust no one and nothing. It is a world of shadows and jackals who move in the shadows.

There is no questioning Doherty's historical knowledge nor the information he includes in this novel. The reader will feel she is in the besieged city, spooked by possible traitors; in the midst of battle with clashing swords and crying horses; or lazily stretched out by Alexander, watching him tell a story or delight his friends. There is a great deal of historical information here.

The problem, it seems to me, is that history overtakes the story and Doherty has so much to say about Alexander and his battles that the story takes second place and often gets nearly lost in the tale of plans and counter plans, traitors and heroes, strokes and counterstrokes. Reading this was more like reading a textbook than a fictional mystery.

Nonetheless I found it fascinating (if not quite as good as the first in the series) and do recommend it.

Reviewed by Sally A. Fellows, October 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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