Murder cuts short the celebration of senator cum sleuth Decius’s professional promotion.
In 65 BCE, Roman Senator Decius Caecilus Metellus rises to the peak of his career when he’s elected Praetor of Campania, a region of southern Italy that includes the infamous Mount Vesuvius. Decius and his wry wife Julia, Julius Caesar’s niece, accept lavish tributes, attend parties in their honor and even receive several veiled offers of bribes. But the frivolity and festivity come to a grinding halt with the murder of Gorgo, the daughter of priest Diocles, of the local Temple of Apollo. Decius (SPQR X: A Point in Law, 2006, etc.), turning sleuth yet again, finds the red carpets abruptly rolled up by Campanians who are suddenly unfriendly and uncooperative. It takes down-to-earth Julia to remind her husband of fame’s fickleness. Decius learns that Gorgo was not the innocent she appeared to be, and that much of the local citizenry may be involved in illegal slave trading. Could this skullduggery be connected to Gorgo’s murder, or to the showdown brewing between Caesar and Pompey? Key evidence is held by Charmian, a missing slave of Diocles. When she’s finally found, it’s too late; she’s been murdered as well. The twisty mystery ends in a flashy trial featuring Decius as attorney.
Roberts’s extensive glossary has never been so apt as in this brisk tale, entrenched in ancient history and politics.