Date: January 2003
it at Amazon
Historical Crime [187AD Gloucester, UK]
Rachel A Hyde
his sojourn in Londinium, ex-slave and mosaic artist Libertus is
back home in Glevum with his wife Gwellia and another floor to lay.
But it seems that the increasingly unbalanced Emperor Commodus is
so impressed with Libertus’ last solution to a crime (see
The Chariots of Calyx, also reviewed on this site) that he is sending
an ambassador to the town from Rome to participate in his birthday
celebrations. Trouble is, soon after his body is discovered, defiling
the temple of Jupiter and this sets off another adventure for Libertus
to find out whodunit before the townsfolk lynch him for bringing
down the wrath of the Gods.
This entertaining series has now clocked
up its fifth book and as ever, Rowe continues to paint a believable
depiction of 2nd century Roman Britain, tempering grim realism with
some wisely applied humor. She has created a convincing picture
of the real ancient world where people believed in pagan gods and
slaves were seen as chattel.
makes a good narrator, as he is on the edge of society, but still
a part of it and can give us the sort of opinions that aren’t
going to make us feel badly disposed towards him. At the same time,
he is not a “modern” protagonist, and this lifts this
series up above the run of historical fiction, particularly genre
fiction. This story was more of a puzzler than some of its predecessors
and it certainly kept me guessing what was behind it all and why,
with some red herrings thrown in to mislead. It was better in this
sense than the last one, which fell down a little in the suspense
department. Still, the best thing about Rowe’s work is her
portrayal of Roman Britain.