A Roman senator turns sleuth once more to clear himself from suspicion of murder.
Recently returned from military success in Cyprus, circa 66 b.c., Decius Caecilius Metellus is poised to announce his decision to run for a praetorship. Out of the blue, wealthy but little-known Marcus Fulvius rains on Decius’ nascent candidacy by publicly accusing him of extortion and plundering. Momentarily stunned, Decius prepares to mount a vigorous defense while finding out everything he can about his nemesis. He’s buoyed by his highly practical wife Julia, the niece of Julius Caesar. On the morning of the trial, however, Fulvius is found dead on the steps of the Forum. Far from easing Decius’ troubles, this development makes it more urgent to learn the truth and find the killer. His freedman Hermes proves an able, bantering sidekick. Fulvius was the sister of Fulvia, one of the most dangerous and promiscuous women in Rome, and one who’s unfortunately crossed paths with Decius before. The key to the crime lies in the complex political maneuvering of the time, with Pompey and Caesar at the center of a huge power struggle. Layers of intrigue slowly unfold, along with a meticulously detailed glimpse of ancient Roman society.
Roberts’s tenth Roman mystery (SPQR IX: The Princess and the Pirates, 2005, etc.) benefits from a wry first-person narrative.