In Roberts's entertaining, fast-paced Roman historical, his eighth to feature Decius Caecilius Metellus (after 2003's The Tribune's Curse), Decius has just become an aedile, a city manager responsible for overseeing urban infrastructure, when he's summoned to a fatal building collapse that claims more than 200 lives. While the evidence of shoddy workmanship is consistent with the pervasive but tolerated corruption in the construction trade, Decius's trained investigative eye notes anomalies on several of the corpses; he risks his political future and his life to follow the clues. His powerful family's efforts to navigate the treacherous shifting alliances that preceded Julius Caesar's return from the Gallic Wars add to the pressures the aedile faces. Once again, Roberts does a nice job of bringing the past to life, though his scholarship and detail fall short of Steven Saylor's Roma Sub Rosa series, which serves as the gold standard for ancient historicals. Despite the small universe of suspects and a solution involving nearly as much luck as dogged legwork, the book's many fine qualities should boost the ranks of Roberts's readers and send newcomers in search of the previous entries. (Jan. 20) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Although he holds a civic post at the lowest level in ancient Rome, Decius Metellus (SPQR VII: The Tribune's Curse) takes his responsibilities seriously. He must see that construction, sewers, roads, and markets all meet official regulations. The recent collapse of an ill-constructed apartment building and the possible murder of its owner start him on a trail that could lead to men in high places-including members of his own family. The Tiber River, meanwhile, threatens to flood, and the impossibly filthy and clogged sewers promise much damage. An excellent re-creation of a fascinating era in history (look for cameos by famous people), this is recommended for most historical mystery collections. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
The suspicious destruction of an apartment building in ancient Rome prompts an investigation of civic corruption and murder. Rome has benefited from the battle for public affection between Pompey and Caesar. But the rise of state-sponsored games, along with monuments and public buildings, proves a headache for Decius Caecilius Metellus (The Tribune's Curse, Mar. 2003, etc.), full-time aedile, sometime sleuth, and droll narrator. More than the civility Decius laments is evidently on the decline when a five-story insula collapses, killing more than 50 inhabitants. The single survivor is a burly slave found clinging to life as he's pinned against a basement wall. Before he can be questioned at length, he dies-a double misfortune, since the couple who owned the building had their necks broken before the fatal collapse. Decius' usual sidekick, his caustic wife Julia, stays in the background, leaving his shady servant Hermes to pick up the slack, though he's as apt to dig up mischief as clues. Their investigation leads them through lots of historical info about Roman society and government before a trip to a notorious whorehouse, the scene of a Senator's recent murder, puts Decius and Hermes on the track of a solution. An extensive glossary provides definitions as well as interesting explanations of customs and government processes. Short on mystery but surprisingly engaging, especially for series fans and ancient-history buffs.
“Entertaining, fast-paced ... Once again, Roberts does a nice job of bringing the past to life.” Publishers Weekly
“Engaging.” Kirkus Reviews
“Engaging characters and colorful backdrop ... Roberts' latest is a quick, enjoyable read.” RT Book Reviews
“An excellent re-creation of a fascinating era in history.” Library Journal