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Posted September 21, 2010
murder and mystery in ancient Rome
Murder and mystery arise in ancient Rome. Julius Caesar was told to "Beware the Ides of March," but Senator Caius Pomponius Afer should have been told to "Beware the Ides of April." It is A. D. 62, and seventeen-year-old Hylas is a Greek slave who serves as secretary to Caius Pomponius. Caius's son Marcus is with the Roman army in Germany, and his daughter Domina Blandina has recently married Camillus Rufus, a military tribune, who is home from Germany on leave. The only other person who lives in the Pomponius household is Caius's stepmother, the elderly Domina Faustina, along with a number of slaves, including Hylas's mother Nissa who is Faustina's maid. Faustina's flesh and blood son, Decianus Gallus, who frequently visits, is also a Senator, but he and Caius frequently argue.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
On the Ides of April, Caius is found murdered in his bedroom. A slave is suspected, and the law is that if a slave kills his master, all the slaves in the household must be put to death. Hylas manages to escape, thanks to the help of neighbor Varro, a market porter who is also a follower of The Way, and his aunt Matidia, but Nissa is among the slaves taken to the prison to be questioned, perhaps tortured, and eventually executed. Hylas is sure that no slave committed the murder, so he seeks the aid of Camillus, who in turn enlists the help of the most honest man whom he knows in Rome, next to his father who happens to be away, Senator Thrasea Paetus, a former consul. Will they be able to unravel the mystery and find the murderer? And will they get it done in time to save Hylas's mother? The vast majority of the characters are fictional, but Thrasea Paetus is not, and the 25-year-old Emperor Nero makes a cameo appearance.
This is some of the best historical fiction set in ancient Rome that I have ever read. It not only captures the realities of daily Roman life just after the time of Christ but also pictures the influence of Christianity as it grew and spread. Yes, there are references to worshipping the pagan Greek and Roman gods, as one would expect of historical fiction about first century Rome, but I especially liked the way that at the end Hylas, whose Greek philosophy had failed him, wants to talk to Varro about his beliefs, and even Camillus, who honored the Roman gods, seems to be favorable. Ray wrote six books in her "Roman Empire Sequence." The first was A Tent for the Sun set in Corinth, Greece. Beyond the Desert Gate, set in Palestine, is sometimes advertised as the sequel to The Ides of April which is second, but Sword Sleep, set in Athens, Greece, comes between them, and Rain from the West, set in Roman Britain, is the final book in the set. The Ides of April is the only one to include a classic murder mystery, and it is so intriguing that it was hard for me to put down.
Posted January 2, 2010
Posted September 20, 2006
As all Mary Ray's and Joanne Williamson's books, this is another winner. Historical events, situations and culture are portrayed in an engrossing manner. This book and others by the same authors I mentioned are recommended highly in several top drawer homeschool company curriculums.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.