RUBICON by Steve Saylor
Robinson  (UK) Trade Paperback  2000
St Martins Pr (US)   Hardcover  May 1999
ISBN 1841191248
ISBN: 0312205767

Reviewed by Rachel Hyde, MyShelf.Com
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As the title implies Caesar and his troops have crossed the Rubicon and civil war is threatened between him and his rival Pompey.  People loyal to Pompey are fleeing Rome and the Great One himself id also preparing to leave when his cousin Numerius is found garrotted – in Gordianus’ garden.  Pompey demands that the retired detective hunts down the murderer and he takes his son-in-law, the ex-slave Davus hostage and marches south.  Gordianus has no option but to obey and he soon finds that Numerius has many secrets to hide but he is not the only one.  With one of his sons close to Caesar as his trusted aide and confidant – and maybe more – Gordianus finds himself in the middle of preparations for battle and between both sides…

Saylor’s latest novel is more an adventure story than a straight detective novel and as always his recreation of Rome during the turbulent last days of the Republic is accurate and meticulously researched.  He doesn’t bore the reader with facts though but transports them back to what it must have been like then – remembrances of the dreaded Proscriptions under Sulla, fears for another civil war and the ever-present fear that at any moment the side you are on may end up being the wrong one.  It strikes a chord in anybody who can remember living through newsworthy events and that is everybody.  Too many writers of fiction set in Ancient Rome point out the similarities between their way of life and ours – apartment blocks, dinner parties, the dole, baths, central heating, noisy politics – and fail to point out the vast gulf that separates people of today with those of 2000 years ago.  Saylor realises that slaves were merely property and not regarded as fully human by anybody, that people truly did believe in the Gods and saw the world in a very different way to modern folk.

If you want a real historical novel that reads if the author had taken Ancient Rome and squeezed it like a lemon, then handed us the juice in the form of this book then look no further.

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