A Spy for Hannibal: A Novel of Carthage

Elisabeth Craft, Author Bartleby Press $21.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-910155-33-5
It's tough living in a country that's behind the times: ""Everyone substitutes lambs or goats for young children--except Carthage,"" laments Elissa, a priestess imported from Tyre, referring to ritual sacrifice. Told against the backdrop of Hannibal's march over the Alps toward Rome to determine control over contested Hispania, Craft's enjoyable historical romance debut clips along nicely after a choppy start. The spy of the title is Hasdrubal, a high priest in Carthage. Envious of his brother, Bimilcar, who's serving in Hannibal's army, Hasdrubal feels, at 40, that he's withered on the vine. And his 11-year-old nephew, Hanno (Bimilcar's son), who's slated to succeed him in the temple, is determined to avoid a similar fate. Both, however, are saved from the dreariness of priesting when word comes from Bimilcar that Hannibal needs someone to spy for him in Rome. News from Bimilcar keeps readers abreast of Hannibal's progress, but both the military chronicle and the political plots in Carthage take a back chariot to the suds factor: Will the reluctant Hanno finally become high priest? Will the May-December romance of thoroughly modern Elissa and Hasdrubal be a success? Will Hanno be able to continue slipping undetected in and out of places whenever he feels like it? While this is mostly history as soap opera and the writing is stilted, readers with a yen for soothsayers, snakes and sacrifices will find more than enough pleasant diversion. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
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