Simon Cornish’s novella is about the mysterious Rosetta whom we first encounter at the funeral of her father, Professor of archaeology, Alan Hargreaves. The other protagonist in the story, Dr Graham Chandlers has been invited to give the eulogy, due to their shared professional background and he is fascinated by Alan’s adopted daughter whom he has never met before.
Rosetta is a beautiful woman, who needs a stick to help her walk and has “a rough silk” voice with an accent impossible to place. Graham has been left Alan’s notes about his last “dig” in Turkey, many years ago, where Professor Hargreaves adopted Rosetta. Unfortunately, another former colleague, bearded Tinkerbell (Dr Tim Bell) also tags along, acting rather strangely.
Graham is a specialist in ancient writing and he is intrigued to discover that Rosetta can speak and write the language of Hattic. He returns to Cambridge, determined to discover all he can about Alan’s time in Turkey. The notes reveal that an exciting discovery had been made during the dig, but it had suddenly terminated and Alan retired. To find out more, Graham arranges to meet another ex-colleague who had been present at the time. Meanwhile, Rosetta has disappeared.
The mystery is built up in an intriguing manner so I was looking forward to his discoveries but I was slightly disappointed that the story ended so quickly. I believe this could have been a full length novel with an extended denouement including more tension and complications. At times the vocabulary is a little contrived. Graham receives “an ursine hug” from Tinkerbell when a bear hug would have been quite sufficient. But more natural comments such as, “Graham’s alarm went off at the usual time, but after trying out consciousness, he decided it wasn’t a good idea and slept in late,” are more endearing.
There is potential for further stories about Dr Graham Chandlers, with or without Rosetta, and this is a promising first novella.