This is neither a brilliantly written nor lavishly illustrated book but it gets under your skin all the same. Gardner has carefully documented the stories of three Europeans and one American who saw Timbuctoo in the nineteenth century at a time when the myth persisted that the remote Saharan town was a City of Gold. It is a sad commentary on human moral, ethnic, religious and nationalistic behavior, full of horror stories about the slave trade, the salt mines, the murders and extortions practiced by individuals or marauding Tuaregs. Strangely one feels less admiration than pity for the four men who do not seem heroes so much as capable of heroic acts of survival (cutting a vein to drink the blood to stave off thirst, for example). Reading the book today in a world in which men and nations are still vying, and hostilities in Africa between races, religions, and imperialist interests have not died, makes the book sadly timely. One feels that only the names have changed.