American expatriate Ethan Gage wins an ancient and possibly cursed medallion in a card game in revolutionary France. Threatened by the powerful Count Silano over the possession of this item, rumored to have belonged to Cleopatra, Gage is framed in the murder of a prostitute with whom he spent the night. To escape prosecution, Gage joins Napoleon’s savants on his expedition to Egypt. Once an acolyte of Ben Franklin’s in his electrical experiments, Gage ingratiates himself with Napoleon to decipher the mystery of the great pyramid. When Silano arrives in Cairo and attempts to murder him to retrieve the medallion, Gage discovers this trinket is linked to the Masons and may be the key to a treasure trove buried in the pyramid. He meets a beautiful Macedonian slave girl, Astiza, who both helps and hinders his efforts, spinning the magic of the ancients. Caught up in the fight between the French, the Mamalukes and the English over Egypt’s conquest, Gage uses mathematical calculations and with Astiza rushes to discover the secret before the vicious Silano.
Careening from volatile France to primitive Egypt to the battle of Aboukir Bay, this novel is nonstop excitement. Gage is a wry though naïve hero and the novel borders on fantasy with many coincidences. But you won’t care as you enjoy the exotic, heart-stopping ride.