The Scribes from Alexandria

Written by Caroline Lawrence
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley Rachel Beggs

81 A.D. Alexandria. In this, the fifteenth Roman Mysteries adventure, the four children, Flavia, Jonathan, Nubia and Lupus are shipwrecked off the coast of Egypt. Flavia, Jonathan and Lupus are rescued and go to the port of Alexandria, hoping to find news of the missing Nubia.

Here, they stumble on a mystery. Chryses, a young eunuch who works in Alexandria’s world famous library, has gone missing, taking Nubia with him. But where are they going? And why? The head scribe orders junior scribe Seth (who dislikes Chryses intensely) to escort Flavia, Jonathan and Lupus up the Nile in search of Chryses.

Then the children learn that government officials have issued orders for their arrest; they must get out of Alexandria, and fast.

Fortunately, Chryses deliberately leaves clues in the form of elaborate riddles chalked on various famous buildings and they follow the trail. But what will they find? Nubia? The mysterious treasure Chryses keeps hinting at? Or death?

Generally, the story is pretty silly, with the children regularly disguising themselves, usually as members of the opposite sex, in order to evade capture. And a child coming new to the series would have difficulty working out who was who and what was going on.

Fellow novelists will recognize ‘information dumps’ all through the book. Remove the detailed descriptions of Alexandria, its famous buildings, the travelogue as they go down the Nile, the explanations of the attributes of various gods and religious festivals and the book would be about a quarter of the length.

Fortunately, the information dumps are interesting, even if the story itself is somewhat preposterous. My impression is of a series which is getting a little tired. However, Rachel feels very differently.

– Elizabeth Hawksley

This is a very exciting book full of adventure and mystery with lots of surprises and little twists.

I found it an easy, quick, enjoyable read, although if you have not read the preceding book, you might get a bit confused as it starts in the middle of a shipwreck that happened at the end of the last book. However, the ending is a bit disappointing. Things are left hanging in the air and the story doesn’t really finish properly. For example, we don’t know why the four children are being hunted down and we don’t know what happens to them because they are just left in the middle of Egypt, although this does make me want to read the next book.

Generally, I enjoy this series because it shows you lots of different places in the world in one era. It keeps the same characters throughout which means you get involved with them. From a historical point of view, I think the author goes into a lot of accurate detail, which I find very interesting. I enjoy learning about all the different gods in Egypt, Africa, Rome and Greece.

I think this book would be suitable for both boys and girls aged around 11-14.

– Rachel Beggs, aged 14