Rome: September, 96 AD. When the body of Sextus Verpa, a notorious senatorial informer and libertine, is found stabbed to death in his bedroom, suspicion falls on his household slaves—a potential death sentence for all.
The cruel emperor, Domitian, orders Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus—known to history as Pliny the Younger—to investigate. However, the Ludi Romani (the Roman Games) have just begun, and for the next fifteen days the law courts are in recess. If Pliny can’t identify the murderer in that time, Verpa’s entire slave household will be burned alive in the arena.
Pliny teams up with Martial, a starving author of bawdy verses and hanger-on to the city’s glitterati. Pooling their respective talents, they unravel a plot that involves Jewish and Christian “atheists,” exotic Egyptian cultists, Rome’s own pantheon of gods, and a missing horoscope that forecasts the emperor’s death....
|Publisher:||Poisoned Pen Press|
|Series:||Plinius Secundus Series , #1|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||782 KB|
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In 96 AD in Rome, Senatorial Informer Sextus Verpa is found viciously stabbed to death in his home. The household slaves of the deceased are the only suspects; with no rights they will be executed for his murder once the Ludi Romani Games are over; as no one is killed by the state during the fifteen days of contests. Meanwhile Emperor Domitian could not care less about slaughtering some slaves in an inferno, but wants to insure his enemies are not behind the stabbing murder. He orders Senator Gaius Plinius Caecillius Secundus, better known as Pliny the Younger, to investigate. Pliny enlists the help of starving author Martial in order to enter places he would have no cooperation. Soon the pair begins to unravel a convoluted conspiracy starting with a horoscope reading that predicts the death of the Emperor is near with tentacles reaching from Jewish and Christian sects, supporters of the Roman pantheon, and Egyptian cultists; but the most dangerous locale for the detecting duet is the palace where the brutal emperor wears no clothes. Ancient Rome has been used as the backdrop for several mystery series by Steven Saylor, Robert Harris and John Robert Maddox for instance and more so Albert Bell whose lead is Pliny the Younger. However, Bruce Macbain keeps his saga fresh with a strong look at the decadence at the end of the first century in which an ethical hero struggles to keep his morality and his head. The story line is fast-paced as the two opposite ins status and outlook sleuths unite following clues that are religious and political dangerous as separation of state denotes separation of one's head. This is an enjoyable whodunit due to the Roman background interwoven throughout the historical mystery. Harriet Klausner
Certainly more fun! Pliny the Younger and Martial travel from the palace to the slums to solve a murder. Historically great, good characters, and a mystery you won't solve early on. Thoroughly enjoyable; hope to read more.
I thought I would give this a try while waiting for the next Saylor book, and was pleasantly surprised by both the quality of the writing and the depth of historical detail. Like Saylor, MacBain has a grounding in classical history and literature, and it shows.