Wednesday, 19 May 2010
Kim's Review : The Hadrian Enigma - A Forbidden History
The story is based on real characters and falls in the genre of speculative fiction. It starts with the discovery of the body of the Bythinian youth Antinous rumored to be Caesar Hadrian's lover or eromenos. While history says that his death was an accidental drowning in the Nile, George Gardiner weaves a story of intrigue around the incident that is quite entrancing.
The tale is revealed as a series of depositions to Special Investigator Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus who is charged by Caesar, to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Antinous within 2 days.
Within the first few pages, it seems the suspect is so evident, that you wonder why the story runs to 476 pages, but as you read along, you realise there are many more players in the mix.
Gardiner has written an interesting and gripping story, but I do wish the editing was tighter. Given that large parts of the book are third person reports, a lot of the minute details included seem superfluous and out of place. He seems to have suffered from a typical writers problem of having done extensive research and then wanting to include as much of the details as possible into the end product.
The language keeps oscillating even when the same person is speaking, from high brow Latin and Greek peppered sentences (sending one scurrying to wikipedia and dictionary.com) to American colloquialisms like "that guy".
Font sizes change suddenly and inexplicably, quite often. Words are underlined for emphasis, which left me feeling like I was reading a manuscript or a draft, rather than a final copy.
While the novel is based on the same sex relationship of Caesar Hadrian and Antinous (currently deified as the God of Homosexuality by some) and marketed as a male-male romance novel, it isn't a turn off to the average reader who wants to read it as a mystery novel. What is vexing though, is the repeated use of the word "crutch" when the author actually means "crotch". Whether this is a problem of the "spell check" software or new slang (I checked urbandictionary.com which did not imply any such meaning to the word - crutch), I'm not sure.
Its an extremely readable story, shedding insight into the life and times of a not-as-renowned Caesar, who had one of the most peaceful and prosperous reigns of his dynasty. It's a page turner, once you get past the initial Greek and Latin terms. I just wish the editing could have been tighter. Then this book would have really stood out for me.
Also Published on desicritics.org