On the eve of World War I, in what today would be modern Iraq, an English archaeologist digs in search of an ancient Assyrian tomb, accompanied by his wife, an assistant, and a female grad student. This quarted is joined by a British major charged with assessing the locals for their military strength and loyalties, an American geologist (pretending to be a historian) searching for oil, and an Arab servant desperate to raise 100 pounds in gold to buy his wife-to-be from her uncle. Mr. Unsworth has crafted an impressive tale of national pride, generational outlooks, the greed of men and the threat of war as his characters' agendas culminate in a thrilling climax. Historical fiction at its finest.
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