This is the second book in the Cornelius Quaint series, and the events follow straight on from where the first book ends (there is a brief recap of the events in The Equivoque Principle – the first book – for anybody who has not read it).
Cornelius has left most of his beloved circus family behind, to travel to Egypt accompanied only by Madame Destine, the circus fortune teller and faithful friend of Quaint. In Egypt, Quaint has to stop a plan masterminded by the Hades Consortium to poison the River Nile and cause death to countless Egyptians. Along the way, he encounters desert thieves, has to deal people who are determined to kill him by any means necessary, and deal with long buried secrets which resurface.
Just as in The Equivoque Principle, this is an enjoyable romp, full of surprising twists and turns – a situation could turn on it’s head very rapidly! – and like Quaint himself, the reader is never entirely sure who can be trusted. Our hero is again full of witty quips and smart asides, and I found myself rooting for him all the way through. He and Madame Destine actually find themselves separated for a large portion of the story, and the opportunity is taken for both characters to be explored further. (This was particularly welcome to me in the case of Destine, as she was the one character I found hard to warm to in The Equivoque Principle; I liked her a lot more when reading this book).
Initially I did think that I would miss some of the characters from Quaint’s circus troupe, who he takes his leave of in the first few chapters. I especially hoped that his valet Butter might go to Egypt with him, but he was tasked with running the circus in Quaint’s absence. However, I actually realised about halfway through the book that I was not missing these characters at all, due to the new characters that were introduced in this book.
The plot is outlandish at times, but I think this must have been entirely intentional – as with the previous book, the book does not take itself too seriously and I don’t think the reader should either. It is simply a rip-roaring and highly enjoyable adventure story, which will made me smile. A wonderful bit of escapism – go enjoy:)