In 88 B.C., it seems as if the entire ancient world is at war. In the west, the Italian states are rebelling against Rome; in the east, Mithridates is marching through and conquering the Roman Asian provinces. Even in the relatively calm Alexandria, a coup has brought a new Pharaoh to power and chaos to the streets. The young Gordianus has been waiting out the chaos in Alexandria, with Bethesda, when he gets a cryptic message from his former tutor and friend, Antipater. Now in Ephesus, as part of Mithridates' entourage, Antipater seems to think that his life is in imminent danger.
To rescue him, Gordianus concocts a daring, even foolhardy, scheme to go "behind enemy lines" and bring Antipater to safety. But there are powerful, and deadly forces, at work here, which have their own plans for Gordianus. Not entirely sure whether he's a player or a pawn, Gordianus must unravel the mystery behind the message if he's to save himself and the people he holds most dear.
A highly suspenseful plot and a moving resolution distinguish Saylor's masterful third novel featuring Roman sleuth Gordianus the Finder in his younger years (after 2014's Raiders of the Nile). In 88 B.C.E., King Mithridates of Pontus, who views himself as the military heir to Alexander the Great, has had an impressive string of victories against Roman forces in Asia. Gordianus, who has settled in Alexandria, is reeling from the revelation that his guide and teacher, the poet Antipater, betrayed his people to spy for Mithridates. When Gordianus learns that Antipater may be in peril, however, he concocts a way to enter Ephesus, a city now controlled by the Pontic king, to come to the poet's aid. Gordianus's arrival coincides with a horrific plan by Mithridates to coordinate simultaneous massacres of tens of thousands of Romans trapped in areas under his control. Even readers who know how history played out will be engrossed.