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A Roman soldier turned historian turned detective tracks a conspiracy to Hadrian’s tomb.

In terms of civil unrest, a.d. 340 is not a good year for the Empire. Christians are being purged; Jews are lying low lest they be next; and the citizenry at large seems bent on finding fresh ways to be mindlessly cruel to each other. Enter Aelius Spartianus, ex-cavalry officer, at loose ends. His service under the Emperor Diocletian Augustus during the Egyptian campaigns has earned Aelius praise not just as a professional soldier but as an amateur historian. Now he’s summoned by “His Divinity” for a task that will test all his skills. Two hundred years earlier, Antinous, a young favorite of the Emperor Hadrian, vanished from the Emperor’s boat and drowned in the Nile. Did he fall? Was he pushed? Did he know some dangerous secret? “It’s the least clear episode in the life of the deified Hadrian, your Divinity,” Aelius tells Diocletian, who concurs, and who, for reasons of his own, seems as fascinated by the mystery as Aelius. To crack this ice-cold case, Aelius journeys to Egypt, where he encounters old friends, old enemies and an old conspiracy that has lost none of its power to unsettle the Empire.

Pastor (Liar Moon, not reviewed, etc.) buries her interesting story and well-drawn characters under an avalanche of research.

Pub Date: March 1st, 2007
ISBN: 0-312-35390-1
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Dunne/Minotaur
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2007