Land of Marvels by Barry Unsworth

A team of archaeologists in present-day Iraq, but at the time a very decayed and corrupt Ottoman Empire, are struggling to make important discoveries as they are threatened by the construction of a railroad line, the start of WWI, and the costly love yearnings of their local helper. At the same time, they unknowingly harbor a treacherous American (this is an English book) who is double-dealing for British and German interests. This could be the start of a very meaty mystery novel, but unfortunately it falls very flat, with long pieces that seem cribbed directly from some history book or geology textbook; pasted-on suffragettes; and caricatured local customs.

Sigh.

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