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THE THIEVES OF OSTIA by Caroline Lawrence

THE THIEVES OF OSTIA

By Caroline Lawrence

Age Range: 8 - 12

Pub Date: May 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-7613-1582-9
Publisher: Roaring Brook

A fast-paced, crackling good mystery is set in “the tenth year of the Emperor Vespasian” and aimed at middle-grade readers. Flavia lives in Ostia, the seaport of Rome, where her father is often away at sea. They have new neighbors: a boy named Jonathan, his sister Miriam, and their father. All of the children are motherless. Flavia shows herself both smart and resourceful right off, tracking the magpie that has made off with her father’s signet ring, but needing rescue from feral dogs in the process. That’s when she makes the acquaintance of Jonathan. She uses her birthday money to purchase a slave, Nubia, when she sees the girl in chains in the marketplace, and the trio soon adopts Lupus, a wild child who has had his tongue cut out. This lively group takes it upon themselves to find out who has been beheading household dogs, and they fasten upon a man unhinged by the death of his daughter from a rabid dog bite. There are lots of interesting historical bits: Jonathan and Flavia wear the bulla, a charm on a chain that indicates they are freeborn children; Flavia’s favorite reading materials are in scrolls; Jonathan’s asthma is treated by oil of marjoram. Jonathan’s Jewish family are converts to Christianity, and their worship, as well as Flavia’s of the Roman gods, are noted in passing. The children use logic, deduction, reasoning, and imagination to solve the crime, and the multicultural cast stretches, but does not shatter, credulity. Sequels are promised, and young mystery-lovers will be eager for the next. (Fiction. 8-12)