SPQR VI: Nobody Loves a Centurion (The SPQR Roman Mysteries)

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9780312272579: SPQR VI: Nobody Loves a Centurion (The SPQR Roman Mysteries)

Julius Caesar, as we know, arrived in Gaul (now France) and announced "I Came, I Saw, I Conquered," but when Decius Metellus arrives from Rome, not seeking military glory but rather avoiding an enemy currently in power, he finds that although the general came and saw, so far, at least, he has far from conquered. The campaign seems at a standstill.

Decius's arrival disappoints the great Caesar as well. He has been waiting for promised reinforcements from Rome, an influx of soldiers to restart his invasion. Instead he is presented with one young man ridiculously decked out in military parade finery and short on military skills, accompanied not by eager troops but by one callow and reluctant slave, the feckless Hermes.

It soon develops, however, that Decius's arrival was fortuitous. When Vinius, the army's cruelest centurion (so-called because he commands a hundred soldiers), is found murdered, Caesar remembers that his new recruit has successfully come up with the culprit in a number of recent crimes. Murder is bad for morale, particularly since it seems quite clear that the murderer was one of Caesar's men. Caesar orders Decius to find the killer -- and quickly.

Although evidence points to the son of one of Decius's clients -- a youth who was the particular target of the centurion's brutality, Decius racks his brain to find a way to save him from the sentence of death. The investigation leads Decius to two German slaves of the dead man -- a dwarfish old man and a beautiful woman. They are puzzling; the man is arrogant, the woman haughty--very unlike slaves. There are unanswered questions. It soon becomes clear to Decius that only by finding and punishing the real murderer will it be possible to quiet the rising dissatisfaction with Caesar's unorthodox method of warfare and forestall a mutiny against the mighty Caesar's authority and aims.

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About the Author:

John Maddox Roberts is the author of numerous works of science fiction and fantasy, in addition to his successful historical SPQR mystery series. The first two books in the series have recently been re-released in trade paperback. He lives in New Mexico with his wife.

From Publishers Weekly:

The first line of Roberts's (Saturnalia) sixth SPQR mystery, "I blame it all on Alexander the Great," sets the tone for this briskly paced, lighthearted Roman historical. Decius Caecillus Mettellus, the would-be playboy son of an illustrious family, plays reluctant sleuth. "Would-be" because his considerable intelligence causes him to be drafted into the most serious affairs of state. When his worst enemy, who could do him great harm, wins a tribuneship, Decius decides it's time to leave Rome. In addition, the family patriarchs, who are grooming him for public office, want him to have more military service. So Decius and his slave, Hermes, journey deep into Gaul, where Caius Julius Caesar is at war with the Helvetii. Caesar's legion faces an unknown number of the enemy, but the trouble really begins when the legion's most hated centurion, Titus Vinius, gets murdered. Titus's death throws suspicion on eight men, who will be executed unless the guilty party is found. Before leaving to recruit additional legions, Caesar assigns the task of uncovering the killer to Decius, who as usual proves a courageous and methodical sleuth. Roberts deftly recreates his ancient world, constantly reminding the reader that it was a cruel and violent place where people thought and acted a lot differently from us. A double-edged solution perfectly caps a highly entertaining story.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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