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Miriam gets a panoramic view of the lake when, in THE DEADLIEST LIE, she climbs the steep, one-hundred-step spiraling marble staircase in the Serapeum, the opulent precinct that is the home of Serapis, the god the Ptolemies created to unite Alexandrians in worship.

Here’s what she saw looking south:

Lake Mareotis and the countryside beyond unrolled before me. As I raised my hands to shade my brow, my eyes were drawn to the bustle about the lake: Brown-skinned women shouldering baskets of laundry along the sandy paths; others either bowed over their garments, kneading them while the water lapped at their feet and the wind snatched their chatter, or crouching to spread them out on the rocks to bleach and dry. Barefoot children frolicking along its marshy fringes. Ibises perched on their stilt-like legs probing the mud with their long, down-curving bills. Gangly boys up to their knees in the stagnant water, cutting down reeds on fleshy stems and collecting them in baskets strapped to their backs. Houseboats squatting in the papyrus beds, their occupants fishing off the deck. Punters propelling cargo in their flat-bottomed boats with a push of their pole against the lake bottom. And ferries zigzagging across the water from town to town slicing through beds of Egyptian-blue water lilies.

Miriam recalls that day atop the highest point in Alexandria, a day that later seemed part of an ancient dream, a floating collection of moments rich in texture and sweetened with the fragrance of the flowering acacias that lined the staircase. And, as we all have done from time to time, she wishes she could resurrect those innocent days and anesthetize all else that occurred.

For her, those innocent days were before the alchemical scrolls were stolen. But were those days really so innocent? Were those early days so innocent for you?

To read an excerpt of the The Deadliest Lie click here.

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