A fictionalized memoir set during the time of Alexander the Great tells the tale of a dynamic spy.
In Eyre’s third novel (Burnfield, 2012, etc.) and the first of a series set in the third century B.C., the spy, informer and all-around character Tabnit Gisgo recounts his role in the death of Alexander the Great. The story is presented as a translation found among the personal effects of Eyre’s great-grandfather, a scholar who worked in the Middle East. Eyre explains in a note to the reader that because his ancestor “was a man of his time,” with an “Edwardian upbringing” and “public school education,” there are linguistic anachronisms throughout the text. This decision is a wise one; it lightens the tone. An elderly man with two very young wives when the story opens, Gisgo is a former wine seller and spy who writes about his “misspent youth” while realizing that the story of his life boils down to being in “the wrong place at the wrong time.” The novel hinges on dispelling the murky history around Alexander the Great’s death, and along the way includes battles, elephants and theater. While Gisgo denies wrongdoing in Alexander’s untimely death, he tells his story with relish. The detailed depiction of the era proves that Eyre’s done his research. The premise of rewriting history (particularly classical history) may be well represented, but the author’s real achievement is the creation of Tabnit Gisgo—a crude, bumbling yet completely appealing antihero.
A memorable narrator and rollicking plot make Eyre’s new series one to watch.