Title of the work
Country of the First Edition
First Edition Date
First Edition Details
Geoffrey McSkimming. Cairo Jim and the Chaos from Crete. Sydney, N.S.W.: Hodder Children's Books, 2002, 244 pp.
cairojim.com (accessed: August 3, 2018)
Action and adventure fiction
Magic realist fiction
Children (ages 9-14)
Courtesy of © 9 Diamonds Press.
Author of the Entry:
Ben Gooley, University of New England, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Peer-reviewer of the Entry:
Elizabeth Hale, University of New England, email@example.com
Daniel Nkemleke, Université Yaounde 1, firstname.lastname@example.org
Portrait of Geoffrey McSkimming, courtesy of © 9 Diamonds Press.
, b. 1962
Geoffrey McSkimming is an Australian writer of children’s fiction and poetry, best known for his Cairo Jim series. Born in and a resident of Sydney, Australia, he has travelled widely in researching his novels. McSkimming is married to Sue-Anne Webster, a professional magician. He is employed on the staff of The School Magazine, the oldest continually published magazine in Australia and the longest running literary magazine for children in the world (published since 1916). Some of his Cairo Jim and Jocelyn Osgood books have been published in many different languages. His writing is comedic and features frequent wordplays and occasional high-level vocabulary for books aimed at the children’s market.
Official website (accessed: August 4, 2017).
Bio prepared by Ben Gooley, University of New England, email@example.com
Available as an audiobook through Bolinda Audio, read by Geoffrey McSkimming, 2002. ISBN: 174093136X, playing time, 4 hours 30 minutes.
Cairo Jim is a young archaeologist who is already an established member of the fictional Old Relics Society at the commencement of the series. He is always seen wearing a pith helmet and his desert sun-spectacles.
Cairo Jim and the Chaos from Crete is located in mid-to-late 20th-century Knossos, in Crete. It is a whimsical adventure in which the hero and his companions (a talking macaw named Doris and a telepathic wonder-camel named Brenda) travel to the Palace of Knossos after learning that the villainous Captain Neptune Flannelbottom Bone is lurking there and keeping visitors away with noxious gas. Captain Bone and his companion crow, Desdemona, are the antagonist for most of the books in the series.
In Knossos, Cairo Jim gives his companions a history lesson by telling the story of King Minos (as a son of Zeus) and Queen Pasiphaë, explaining how Poseidon’s jealousy caused him to make Pasiphaë fall in love with a white bull and later give birth to the Minotaur. He told of Daedalus’ construction of the labyrinth beneath the Palace, and of Theseus and Ariadne. Cairo Jim’s party then discovers a secret entrance into the labyrinth in pursuit of Captain Bone. Captain Bone is seeking the fabled Talos, a giant bronze automaton which King Minos had reportedly used to defend Crete from attack. Bone hopes to use the Talos to further his quest for greatness and power.
After evading various dangers, Cairo Jim and his companions reach Bone just as he has reached the Talos, but the ancient "creature" is frail and brittle, toppling and being destroyed as it tries to move. As Bone then tries to harm Jim, they are joined by the Minotaur, who being partially a god has stayed alive through the ages. The Minotaur has been watching them in the maze and rescues Cairo Jim as someone of noble character, with Bone and Desdemona fleeing.
The Minotaur explains that he has never harmed the people sent into the maze, but that they died for being lost in the maze. The Minotaur explains that it had agreed with Theseus that if Theseus could escape he would tell people he had killed the Minotaur so that the creature could be left alone. Cairo Jim offers to help the Minotaur leave with him but it chooses to stay behind where it feels it belongs.
Cairo Jim and the Chaos from Crete contains both explicit mythological content and includes stories and locations within a mythic framework.
The world of Cairo Jim is one in which the world of "historical fact" and the "mythic world" weave together so that the mythic and magical tropes work their way into the contemporary world in various ways throughout the book. Although the stories are not clearly dated, their use of plane travel locates them in the second half of the 20th Century. As an archaeological adventure story, the Cairo Jim series sees possible influence from the Indiana Jones stories, although Cairo Jim is less swashbuckling.
The story’s placement in the Palace of Knossos and the mythical labyrinth underneath provides a strong physical locus for the classical and mythic elements to emerge. Finding the Talos automaton is a key driver of the plot, and the Talos is itself a briefly active character in the plot. The Minotaur also features at the end of the narrative as an active player, though the original myth is amended to make the Minotaur non-violent.
The original classical myth itself is provided in the narrative, as spoken by Cairo Jim, thus introducing many mythical characters to the text.
Although all the major characters are adults, the frequent whimsical wordplay, talking animals, and the classical and adventure themes make the books appealing to children.
Sykes, H., "Novels for the Classroom" [Book Review], English in Australia, 137 (2003): 57.
Saxby, Maurice, Books in the life of a child: Bridges to literature and learning, South Melbourne: Macmillan Education Australia, 1997, pp. 238, 314.