Roman Britain in 91 AD is a raw frontier province, a troublesome part of the mighty Empire ruled by Domitian Caesar. Though it is almost fifty years since the legions invaded, many native tribes still hate their conquerors and seize any chance to harass the Roman settlers who are flocking in to colonise the new province. Tension is especially high in the north, where Aurelia Marcella, a young innkeeper from Italy, runs the Oak Tree Mansio on the road to York.
A string of savage murders disrupts her peaceful life, and she and her Roman friends find themselves under attack from a secret native war-band, the Shadow-men, whose aim is to drive all Romans out. A traveller, Quintus, is nearly killed close to the inn, and he and Aurelia must track down the rebel warriors and identify their mysterious masked leader, the Shadow of Death. Their investigations bring them into personal danger from ruthless killers and devious deceivers. Can they find and destroy the Shadow of Death before his campaign of terror turns into open rebellion, so that all Romans must get out or die?
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JANE FINNIS has been fascinated by the past ever since as a child she walked the straight Roman roads of East Yorkshire. After reading history at London University, she worked for some years in London as a freelance broadcaster for BBC Radio. Now she is settled in East Yorkshire again with her husband Richard, and spends much of her time researching and writing about the Roman Empire. Get Out or Die is her debut novel. Visit her website at www.janefinnis.com.Review:
There are several successful mystery series about the world of ancient Rome, but what gives Jane Finnis' first novel a special edge of interest is that it's set in 91 A.D. in the Roman province of Britannia.
It has been 30 years since the first Roman civilians arrived in the wake of the conquering legions, and they have been living and working alongside the
natives. A sharp young woman named Aurelia Marcella, who came to what is now the city of York in northern England with her family after the disaster at Pompeii, runs a popular inn, the Oak Tree Mansio, where until recently all was relatively quiet.
But some of the natives are becoming restless, and the headless bodies of Roman soldiers are being found beside local roads, decorated with discs of bone bearing an ominous message: "All Romans Will Be Killed. Get Out Or Die."
This gives Finnis the chance to mix history, mystery and mayhem--always a lively brew in good hands--with flashes of wit about local customs. (" `How are things in the kitchen? Did you manage to liven up that cow's meat stew?' " Aurelia asks her sister, Albia. " `Yes,' " she answers, " `Cook added some extra herbs and it's quite tasty now. I don't think cow's meat will ever be anyone's idea of a delicacy, but the natives seem to like it' "--thus setting the stage for the roast beef of Old England and mad cow hysteria.)
Behind the killings and the threats seems to be a band of native activists who still practice Druid rituals, drink mead rather than wine and tend to dress somewhat ostentatiously as old-style Brigantian warriors: blue skin paint, hair whitened with lime, leather kilts, lots of gold and silver jewelry. But their leader, the Shadow of Death, always wears a mask, and is suspected of being a Roman officer or official.
Aurelia, latest in a long line of capable women who brighten historical fiction, joins forces with a Roman soldier/spy named Quintus to find and expose this high-level traitor. And anyone who--like author Finnis--has ever marveled at how straight and well-built many of the Roman roads of England still are should enjoy this entertaining look back. -- Dick Adler, Chicago Tribune
Highly recommended by Dean James of Houston's Murder by the Book
Get Out or Die (by Jane Finnis; Poisoned Pen Press; $24.95) This is the first in a new series set in Roman Britain ca. 91 A.D. The main character is
an opinionated Roman woman, and the plot is fun (a bit of a thriller, rather than a whodunit). Excellent period detail!
"Remarkably timely it is to read about a culture clash between indigenous people and successful, sophisticated invaders, about figurehead leaders controlled by others, about the "Shadow of Death" who is still at large. Despite its title, Finnis' vivid, fast-paced mystery is, finally, upbeat. (Whistle a chorus from Oklahoma!: ‘Oh, the farmer and the cowman should be friends!' –substituting the Britons and the Romans.) Prefatory maps show the province of Britannia in 91 AD, and an enlargement of the section around Oak Tree Mansio, where Aurelia Marcella (think a more attractive version of Powerful Katinka) is innkeeper and her pretty, well-rounded sister Albia is cook. An uncle in faraway Rome owns the inn, and the women are, technically, Romas, but Britannia is home, and where they intend to stay. A near-dead man is discovered in the inn’s courtyard, a crude medallion pinned to his tunic: ALLROMANSWILLBEKILLEDGETOUTORDIE (a translation of the original Latin). More medallions appear. Legionaries seeking to keep the peace are attacked. Hooded figures perform grotesque acts of worship and murder. Captured, Aurelia and her lover face torture. After much tension, chapter XXXII provides a wholly satisfactory ending: libations, camaraderie and love."–Drood Review
“In Finnis' lively debut,...suspenseful and at times comical,... the plot is timely as conquerors seek to impose civilization on a barbarian culture that doesn't appreciate the new roads and government or the increase in commerce.” --Publishers Weekly
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