cover image The Murder of Cleopatra: History's Greatest Cold Case

The Murder of Cleopatra: History's Greatest Cold Case

Pat Brown. Prometheus, $20 trade paper (270p) ISBN 978-1-61614-650-4

A compelling if misguided investigation into the demise of Cleopatra, this book attempts to disprove the fabled story of her suicide by snakebite while hypothesizing a very different cause of death. Professional criminal profiler Brown (Psychopaths) is an experienced crime scene analyst, but CSI: Cairo this is not: her dry tale fails to do justice to the thrilling subject matter. Relying heavily on the writings of Plutarch, a contemporary of the pharaoh, Brown suggests that Cleopatra was imprisoned, beaten, and finally slain by Octavian, the dissembler of ancient Egypt and founder of the Roman Empire. Interspersed with the sequence of events leading up to the ruler's death are jarring anecdotes about Brown's research and travels through the region (unrepresented by a single map), and an attempt in the epilogue to make her new history somehow relevant to the Arab Spring seals the sarcophagus, as it were. Clunky writing further fails to bulwark a revisionist history based on much conjecture. A sad end for a queen of Egypt, indeed, but not one borne out by the facts presented. Photos. Agent: Claire Gerus, Claire Gerus Literary Agency. (Feb.)