I have recently been reading a lot of historical intrigue novels where the main characters have to solve an ancient riddle before the “bad guys” in order to save the world. Think Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code or James Rollins’ Sigma Force novels.
William Dietrich’s Napoleon’s Pyramids is an interesting twist on the theme. Written from the perspective of Ethan Gage, “assistant to Ben Franklin and expatriate American in post-revolutionary France”, the novel is full of historical detail not only of the Ancient Egyptians whose pyramids feature prominently, but also the world as seen by Gage in the late 1700’s.
Gage is both an academic and adventurer. He is as at home with the voyageurs in the wilds of North America as he is with the scholars and scoundrels he meets gambling in the brothels of Paris. His worldly perspective allows for lots of commentary on the political state of the world as France struggles to move forward after the Revolution. Conflicting views of science, religion, philosophy, politics and the occult all add to the turmoil.
And don’t think for a minute that this is a dull tale – action abounds. Gage is forced on the run when he is framed for a murder in Paris. Saved by gypsies, and constantly guarding an ancient medallion from all who seek it, Gage ends up serving as part of Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt. There he meets an interesting cast of locals. But can he trust them?
Lucky for me I can get more action, adventure and a double helping of historical detail in Dietrich’s later Ethan Gage novels: The Rosetta Key, The Dakota Cipher and The Barbary Pirates.