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Buried Too Deep
Aurelia Marcellus series #3

by Jane Finnis

      No one can accuse author Jane Finnis of slowing down the pace as she makes heroine Aurelia Marcella's life interesting in her third historical mystery set in 1st century A.D. Roman Britain. There's action enough for at least a couple of books (not something general mystery fans tend to associate with historical mysteries) and a storyline nicely embellished with numerous and varied subplots, making it feel more like real life (at least my real life) than a linear, artificially constructed plot. It all ties together very nicely at the end though.

The setting, a mansio (inn) on the empire's western frontier, is a natural for plenty of turbulence, intrigue and change. It also helps set this series apart from other Roman series, which tend to be focused on Rome itself. Another thing that sets it apart is one of my favorite historical mystery heroines - Aurelia, running the mansio with good humor, common sense, passion, caring, and a sharp, but not impossibly perfect mind. Mastermind detectives don't amuse me any more than mastermind criminals. She makes mistakes and leaps to conclusions, but unlike so many books where characters seem to do so merely to fit the author's plotting needs, Aurelia does so believably, as you or I might. As you can probably guess by now, one of the things I really like about this author's work is how the world she creates feels natural to inhabit, despite the differences between it and the one I live in. It's loaded with vivid period detail, while Aurelia, for all I might enjoy having someone like her as a best friend, is still very much a woman of her times. However, you never feel like this is a story struggling to get out from under a history lesson.

While life on the Empire's frontier has always had its rough edges and conflicts, things seem especially turbulent lately. The local doctor, married to Aurelia's manager at the mansio, is seeing an increasing number of injured patients from the normally peaceful wold country on the coast, where Aurelia's sister, Albia, and her husband live. These include one with a message for Aurelia's brother about Gaulish raiders. Followed by a message from her brother-in-law about the raiders and attacks on their own farm. When Aurelia's brother, Lucius, appears with news of the same raiders, talking of lost treasure and family secrets, followed by a messenger reporting a grounded treasure ship in the same area... Well it's time for the whole family to gather at Albia's to sort things out. All this and more and we're barely 50 pages into things, with the surface of what Aurelia is about to go through barely touched.. As I said, this one's loaded with action and it's filled with life. It's definitely a lose-yourself-in-it story. You surface out of at the end rather than just closing the covers. Grab a copy and have a great time visiting Roman Britain. Highly recommended.

The Book

Poisoned Pen Press
June 2008
Hardcover (reviewed from ARC)
Historical Mystery - Roman Britain 98 A.D.
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The Reviewer

Kim Malo
Reviewed 2008
© 2008