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Civil war looms between the forces of Julius Caesar and Pompey, providing an ominous background for Roberts's compelling 12th Roman historical to feature Decius Caecilius Metellus (after 2007's SPQR XI: Under Vesuvius). Recently raised to the post of praetor peregrinus, Metellus is enjoying traveling outside Rome hearing cases involving foreigners, but he gets an unexpected shock at the Oracle of the Dead near the southern Italian town of Baiae. The corpse of Eugaeon, a priest of Apollo, surfaces in the rushing stream of water inside the oracle's temple. Oddly, Eugaeon's body shows no sign of violence but is completely hairless. After the priest's missing colleagues, initially the prime suspects, also turn up dead, the astute sleuth comes to believe that these current killings are but the latest of many. Metellus puts his own life at risk in an exciting case that engages the attention of Pompey himself. (Dec.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.