The more things change, the more tourists stay the same.
Granted, today's visitors to the Med will find more modern creature comforts — and a lot more ancient rubble — than Steven Saylor's fictional teenage crime-solver Gordianus does in 92 B.C on his tour of the Seven Wonders of the World. And if they're lucky, they'll encounter fewer murders and no virgin sacrifices.
But there isn't any traveler who won't recognize the joys and terrors of tourism, from lying innkeepers and rude waitresses to the thrill of cultural discovery and surpassed expectations.
And if you're going to tour the ancient world, you could find no better guide than Saylor, who has proven his mastery of the form in his two-part (so far) history of Rome, Roma and Empire, and in his sprawling mystery series built around Gordianus the Finder. That's the same Gordianus who appears here in a much younger version, solving his first cases as he moves from town to town, accompanied by Antipater of Sidon, a famous and real poet.
As befits the format (basically, one case per chapter) and the detective's youth, the mysteries are simple stuff — but they're not the draw. If you've read the Gordianus novels, this book serves as an enjoyable prequel; if you haven't, it's an entertaining introduction. But either way, the best reason to read it is for Saylor's uncanny ability to paint a vivid picture of ancient life and pull you into it
After all, you're never actually going to get to visit the real Seven Wonders. Consider this book an excellent summer substitute.