Reviewed by Rachel Hyde,
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This is the third case for hapless ex-slave and pavement-maker Libertus and this time he has more than usual to contend with. Perennis Felix, a close friend of the emperor but not of many other people comes to Glevum, summarily executes a slave, commandeers a house and throws a celebration. Libertus is invited to attend by his patron Marcus Septimus and fortunately before Felix can do any more damage he chokes on a nut – or has he been murdered? Nobody liked him so there is no shortage of suspects for Libertus to investigate. Is it his handsome coach driver Zetso, plain daughter Phyllidia, her lover or the mysterious Egobarbus?
Rowe paints a convincing picture of Roman Gloucester as she skillfully balances the similarities with modern life with those elements that place the novel firmly two thousand years ago, a detail that many writers overlook when delineating the Roman way of life. This is not only a highly civilized world it is also one where people believe in pagan gods and the life of a slave is only worth whatever he or she costs. Rowe spins a taut and teasing tale of murder and mystery but it is for her description of Roman Britain that makes this book most impressive. She has skillfully managed to create characters who behave in a manner suitable to their times while still making them entertaining and in many cases sympathe6ic. No mean feat and I look forward to reading more of Libertus’ cases.
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