Medieval entrepreneurial whiz Nicholas van der Poele now finds gold, uncharted African territories, and inner peace in the Sahara desert--in this fourth novel in a series that began with NiccolÃ² Rising (1986). Returning to Venice from Cyprus, Nicholas the dyemaker's apprentice, who by 24 has become one of Europe's great merchant-bankers, finds the bank he founded in trouble and his own reputation beset with rumors. Enemies (and he has naturally a great many) are claiming that he murdered trading rival Simon St. Pol's wife Katelina, as well as seduced Simon's nephew Diniz. The Turks are also threatening to retake their lost lands; Venice itself needs money; and arch-banking-rivals want to destroy Nicholas, which is just the sort of situation he thrives on. Through complex maneuvers and deals, he manages to arrange an expedition via the sea route to the south to find gold and the legendary kingdom of Prester John in Ethiopia. Tine expedition that sets off from Madeira includes beautiful but feisty Gelis, Katelina's younger sister bent on avenging her murder; Loppe, the freed black slave who has promised to lead Nicholas to the fabled gold mines of Africa; Bel, a formidable Scotswoman; and Father Godscale, who hopes to make Christian converts. In Africa, Nicholas fights his rivals; is appalled by the slave trade; treks (with Loppe as his guide) to fabulous Timbuktu, where he is tempted to linger; makes an arduous but futile search for Prester John; and returns to Venice via the Sahara desert--the setting of a significant epiphany--with enough gold and heroic reputation to restore his fortunes. Only true love is elusive as Nicholas, prepared to settle down and raise a family, finds unexpected obstacles--so presumably there's a lot more adventure still ahead for our hero. Great stuff for all Dunnett fans.