'I am sure of this much: my little story has become your history. You won't really understand your times until you understand mine'. Reeling from the aftermath of the twin tragedies of the Great War and the influenza epidemic, diffident schoolteacher Agnes Shanklin has taken the trip of a lifetime: to Egypt and the Holy Land. But her arrival at Cairo's Semiramis Hotel coincides with an event that will change history.For the year is 1921 and the Cairo Peace Conference is about to preside over nothing less than the creation of the modern Middle East. At first Agnes acts as a welcome sounding board for the historic players - Churchill, T. E. Lawrence and Lady Gertrude Bell among them - poised to invent the nations of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and so decide the fate of the Arab world. Yet as the tumultuous days pass, she attracts the attention of a charismatic German spy and is inexorably drawn into the duplicitous, dangerous world of geopolitical intrigue. As enlightening as it is entertaining, this compelling, passionately felt novel casts brilliant and perceptive light on what lies behind so many of today's headlines.