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The Lost Ten by Harry Sidebottom

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Edited by Keith Currie, Sunday, 23 May 2021, 19:33

Saving Prince Sasan

 So, Harry Sidebottom now turns his authorial skills to a standard thriller plot: the small group of crack soldiers sent behind enemy lines to free and bring back a prisoner in an impregnable fortress. Add  a traitor in their midst, an attempt to scupper the operation from the start, a rooky commander, a motley, diverse team of skilled but flawed men and you have many of the tropes, or should I say typikoi, of the genre. In addition there are teasing references to the author’s other hero, Ballista, and the question of what has happened to him. The story is implausible, yes, but exciting and enjoyable. I think it most unlikely that any such hit squad nowadays, would take time off from their mission to rescue a random lady they have never seen, let alone met, from her dastardly captors. But it all adds to the fun.

 A good reason to read Sidebottom’s Roman novels is to enjoy the scholarly learning he demonstrates throughout: Roman senators who use quotations from Virgil to disguise their treasonous plots, the elongated skulls of the Heruli warriors of the Caspian Sea, the offended dignity of the Persian king of kings. But be careful: Harry knows, even if one of his characters does not, that when Odysseus visits the Underworld, it is the ghost of his mother, not his father, that he meets there.

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