Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Publisher: Headline
Release Date: January 2003
ISBN: 0747269009
Format Reviewed: Hardback
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Genre: Historical Crime [187AD Gloucester, UK]
Reviewed: 2003
Reviewer: Rachel A Hyde
Reviewer Notes:

The Legatus Mystery
By Rosemary Rowe 

     After 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.

     Libertus 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.

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