By Rosemary Rowe
Headline - January 2002
ISBN: 0747270996 - Hardback
Mystery / Historical - Roman Britain, 187 AD

Reviewed by: Rachel A Hyde, MyShelf.Com
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Ex-slave and mosaic artist Libertus is in Londinium at the invitation of the Roman Governer Pertinax who is allowing him to accompany him to Eboracum (now York) to look for his missing wife Gwellia but no sooner has he arrived than he is called upon to solve a murder. The chief corn officer of the city has been strangled in his bed and his mother is convinced that his beautiful new wife and her chariot racer lover must have done the deed. But there are so many suspects: his mousy first wife who still lives in the house; her spoiled young son, an angry giant of a Celt who is demanding money and his own formidable mother. Furthermore, why is there is fortune buried under the floor?

This is the fourth case for Libertus and as before, Rowe paints a convincing picture of 2nd century Roman Britain that compares less with modern life than some of her rivals' novels and has the distinct flavor of the ancient world. This is a civilized world, but it is also one where slaves are seen as chattel and people believe in pagan gods. Wisely, none of the characters is wildly against the status quo but accept these things as the norm and thus the reader is transported back in time, instead of having a firm footing in the 21st century via a "modern" protagonist, a fault with a lot of historical fiction. I enjoyed the story with its twists and turns, but I wouldn't say that Rowe's book would win any prizes as a truly suspenseful page-turner. As usual, the true star of this book - and all her others - is her delineation of Roman Britain.

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