Cairo Vanderbilt comes from a family of archaeologists renowned for their discoveries. As the oldest son, Cairo is expected to follow in his ancestors’ footsteps by making a remarkable find of his own. It has taken his love of history and archaeology and turned it into a burden of expectations. The fact that Cairo has not yet managed to make a discovery of his own and is bearing the brunt of his father’s disappointment just makes things worse.
When Cairo’s father dies while searching for the tomb of Alexander the Great, Cairo feels both the deep loss, as well as a sense of failure for being unable to live up to his father’s legacy. It takes some work, but his twin brother, Memphis, manages to convince Cairo that he should lead his own expedition to search for Alexander’s tomb as a chance to revisit archaeology on his own terms and out from under his father’s thumb.
Dillinger DeCosta has a successful history blog, but as much as he enjoys writing about the events of the world, he has never experienced travel on his own. When he hears about Cairo’s dig, Dillinger manages to get himself on board covering the experience for his blog and the media. Things start out a little rocky between him and Cairo, but soon they find themselves building a friendship that ultimately leads to more. Dillinger has his own family baggage, however, and a secret that he hasn’t shared with Cairo. The men are falling for one another, not to mention on the verge of the find of a lifetime, but Dillinger’s secret may end up destroying both the relationship and their quest to find Alexander’s tomb.
Finding Alexander grabbed me right away from the blurb. The story is billed as “Indiana Jones meets Clark Kent in this modern-day treasure hunt” and I am all here for that. The best parts of this story for me were definitely the elements that related to the archeology and the hunt for Alexander the Great. Pine does a nice job giving readers a feel for the history and Alexander’s significance as an archeological find. We get some great details on the dig, the research the men conduct in order to help figure out where Alexander might be buried, and the fierce rivalries that occur among archeologists. I really enjoyed sinking into this aspect of the story and it really made this book unique. I will say that I think this one falls a little short of the excitement that is implied in the blurb, however. The men find the tomb fairly quickly and the focus feels much more on the interpersonal relationship than the suspense or the archaeology. There is some tension at the end when the find is threatened by an interloper, but mostly this story felt a little more low key than I was expecting from the blurb.
I think where this one fell short for me was in the relationship between Cairo and Dillinger. The story has a pretty slow build as the guys start off a little at odds, then become close friends, and ultimately fall in the love. I think the quasi-enemies to friends portion worked well and we get a nice sense of these guys working through their issues. But the jump to declarations of love just felt out of nowhere for me and jolted me out of the story. Honestly, if someone had asked me where these guys were in their relationship at that point, I would have said they were two guys who were recognizing some romantic interest and thinking they might begin exploring it. But instead, they were suddenly all in, declaring love for each other and, as a reader, they just didn’t feel there at all So this definitely lessened the impact for me of both their relationship, as well as the conflicts that threatened their relationship later on in the book.
The conflict here focuses on Dillinger’s secret and Cairo’s reaction. We know (as does Dillinger) that Cairo was burned by a past boyfriend who kept secrets and hid a lot about himself. Yet Dillinger keeps a major secret from Cairo, knowing how he will feel when he finds out. Neither man comes off particularly well, Dillinger for keeping the secret and Cairo for his reaction. But again, I think the impact was somewhat lessened for me as I didn’t feel the supposed intensity of their relationship at that point.
I did really enjoy the connection among the four men forming their dig team — Cairo, Memphis, Dillinger, and their friend Magnus. Dillinger is estranged from his family and an only child, so I liked how the other three bring him into their circle and they form a nice bond of friendship and found family. The interactions among them all were nicely done and really round out the story well.
So overall, I found this one a really interesting story and I the archaeological aspects were particularly engaging. The relationship just didn’t quite come together as well for me as I would have hoped, but that didn’t stop this from being an enjoyable read. If you are looking for a story with some adventure and history built in, definitely check out Finding Alexander.