The Samarkand Solution (Trade Paperback)

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by Gary Gygax, with an introduction by Ed Greenwood

Death on the River Nylle!

Death has come to the Ægyptian city of On, and only Magister Setne Inhetep, wizard-priest and detective in the service of Pharaoh, has a chance of solving the mystery in time to stop a rebellion. When a chance encounter with a hired killer leads to a front-row seat at a royal assassination, Setne is thrown into a web of deceit and danger that touches everyone from the halls of power to the church of the evil god Set. Along with a seductive former slave and a hard-bitten detective with a mind as sharp as Setne’s (and a tongue even sharper), the Magister must unravel a plot that goes deeper than anyone can imagine, and touches on forces even more dangerous than Set himself.…

The father of fantasy roleplaying and the co-creator of the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game, Gary Gygax has had more influence on modern fantasy than any author since J. R. R. Tolkien. Dive into Gygax’s lavishly imagined vision of ancient Egypt and discover a fantastic mystery from the man who redefined a genre.

208-page softcover trade paperback
ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-083-4

About the Author

In 1974, Gary Gygax (1938–2008) co-created the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game, forever changing the face of fantasy. The hand-assembled first print run of 1000 boxed rulesets sold out in nine months, and by 1978 the game’s explosion in popularity warranted a three-volume harcover rules expansion called Advanced Dungeons & Dragons authored by Gygax. The release of AD&D coincided with the explosive popularity that catapulted the game into a true cultural phenomenon, introducing fantasy to a generation of new readers. D&D’s literary roots drew upon the sword and sorcery work of authors like Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance, and Robert E. Howard, and by the mid-1980s D&D’s publisher, TSR, began to release their own line of fantasy fiction.

Thus was born Gord the Rogue, Gygax’s rakish, metropolitan thief whose daring adventures span seven novels: Saga of Old City, Artifact of Evil, Sea of Death, City of Hawks, Night Arrant, Come Endless Darkness, and Dance of Demons. Years later he introduced a new character, the crime-solving Ægyptian wizard-priest Magister Setne Inhetep, in a trilogy of novels: The Anubis Murders, The Samarkand Solution, and Death in Delhi.

Gygax's importance to American popular culture was solidified with an animated cameo alongside Al Gore, Stephen Hawking, and Star Trek's Nichelle Nichols in a 2000 episode of Futurama.

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Good Fantasy, Bad Mystery


Gary Gygax's The Samarkand Solution is the third book in a trio featuring Magister Setne Inhetep, a priest-wizard detective in a quasi-Egyptian fantasy world. Although Planet Stories published the three books out of order, each is a standalone novel and (as far as I can tell) no mention is made of the other stories in each book.

The mystery starts out quickly in The Samarkand Solution, as Inhetep spots a well-known assassin in a pub and trails him to the grounds of a Temple of Set. Inside, Inhetep discovers the Prince Governor in the midst of a mysterious gathering of foreign dignitaries. Seconds later, the Prince is murdered by presumably mystic means, but no trace of magic remains. Unlike previous books in the series, Inhetep investigates this mystery without the help of his loyal bodyguard Rachelle. Instead, he's joined by a local law enforcement official named Tuhorus (Inspector Lestrade to Inhetep's Sherlock Holmes, as it were). Along the way, they rescue a nubile slavegirl named Xonaapi, and some of the funniest passages in the book come from her attempts to seduce the quite proper Inhetep.

As before, Gygax has created an interesting fantasy world that is quite distinct from the generic medieval England fantasy worlds that serve as the background for so many novels. The characters and dialogue are good, and the combat scenes fairly interesting (though one can detect some D&D tropes in Gygax's penchant for secret doors and underground labyrinths). As a mystery novel, there are some flaws that could be frustrating to some readers: crucial clues necessary to the discovery of the murderer come from out of left field and are not known beforehand to the reader, so even a clever reader who carefully assembles the evidence, parses dialogue, and assembles a timeline would have no chance of solving the mystery before Inhetep announces the solution. As a fantasy novel this book is solid, as a mystery novel not so much.

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