A thrillingly imaginative reinvention of imperial Rome that’s full of suspense and moral drama.

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THE EMPEROR'S ASSASSIN

A work of historical fiction, set in the first century, dramatizes the life of Locusta of Gaul, a woman famed for being a skilled poisoner of thousands.

Locusta, whom her father calls the “most beautiful woman in Gaul,” is promised in marriage to the wealthy Faustinus—a prospect that initially delights her. But when she meets him in person, she discovers an ugly, coarse old man who’s capable of unspeakable cruelty; before they’re married, he brutally rapes her. Pricilla, Locusta’s servant and best friend, uses her knowledge of herbal poisons to murder Faustinus in revenge. Pricilla then becomes Locusta’s mentor, teaching her not only which flowers have “lethal seeds, and which deadly blooms,” but also the ways to prudently navigate a “poison-filled world.” The servant counsels and warns simultaneously: “Knowledge of deadly plants is the worst kind….It will end all innocence—shine a light on your soul—make you see the dark workings of your mind and heart—make you question the truths you cling to.” Locusta is sent to Rome to petition Emperor Claudius on behalf of her father, Quintus Metallus Parisii, a vintner who’s dangerously behind on his taxes. Once there, she’s drawn into the dangerous world of political intrigue and compelled to conspire against Claudius. Bardot (Dragon Lady, 2019, etc.) spins a grippingly dark tale about Locusta’s life as an “assassin and peddler of poison” in the service of Claudius’ successor, Emperor Nero, a truly twisted man. The author masterfully portrays the vicious contests for power that characterized Roman politics at the time and the lurid manner in which such political ambition combined with more carnal longings. As Locusta learns from Pricilla about the plight of women in a world dominated by men, readers get the remarkable perspective of a woman who’s vulnerable but resilient. 

A thrillingly imaginative reinvention of imperial Rome that’s full of suspense and moral drama.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9882092-9-9

Page Count: 474

Publisher: Flores Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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