This book is really nothing more than Sam Spade deposited in ancient Rome--a detective sniffing out clues and avoiding thugs in the gritty backstreets of a great city. The protagonist even has a devoted and efficient female slave who fills the Effie role. The author has done a great deal of research, but, like the hero, it feels like a veneer on the story rather than an integral part of it, unlike the exquisite scholarship of "The Egyptian." The main weakness, however, is the reader. Very poor choice for the material, as he has no aptitude for character voices.
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