THE HOUSE OF THE
VESTALS by Steven Saylor
This is a volume of short stories featuring Gordianus The Finder and set between the first and second of his novels. It spans the years between 80 and 72BC and threaded in with the fiction is plenty of historical fact as Gordianus is cursed with living in “interesting times”. Many of the stories are actually based on the writings of Roman authors and are either retellings of true events or items of folklore that gives them plenty of verisimilitude. All are meticulously researched and told in the chatty, easy-to-read (but we are sure cursed hard to write) style for which Saylor is known.
Pirates, ghosts and vampires, wills, murders, disappearances and riddles all fill these busy pages. To give insights into a few of the stories Death Wears a Mask features a real actor of the time and a glimpse of Roman theater, The Tale of a Treasure House brings to life a story from Ancient Egypt courtesy of Bethesda, The Lemures spotlights the Roman belief in the supernatual, Little Caesar and the Pirates reminds us of a historical event early in Caesar’s career and The House of the Vestals tells us, as do all the others in their way, how the Romans viewed religion and the law and introduces us to the fascinating real-life character of Catilina.
Some of these stories have already been anthologized by Robinson in their excellent series of Mammoth books. This is definitely one for the keeper shelf to read again as are all Saylor’s books. A triumph of both historical fact crime fiction and sheer entertainment.
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