But Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger, highborn commander of the local vigiles, was determined to investigate. Despite official apathy, brazen bribes, and sinister threats, Decius uncovers a world of corruption at the highest levels of his government that threatens to destroy him and the government he serves.
©1990 John Maddox Roberts; (P)2008 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
I have read a few books on ancient Rome recently and came across this Edgar nominated mysteries by John Maddox Roberts. He is a new author to me but I understand he is a well known Sci-Fi writer. The book takes place in about 70 B.C.E. and follows Decius Caecilius Metellus the younger, who is a patrician and former soldier how is now a low ranking official in the commission of Twenty Six (sort of policeman). The garroting of a manumitted gladiator, a foreign merchant and a wealthy freedman all in a short time in his district has Decius investigation the murders. He uncovers a conspiracy by Publius Claudius Putcher. Roberts is using a first-person narration. Robert does spend a lot of time in forming us of the history of wars and Roman politics of the time. The author also relays Roman customs of daily life and religious life into the story. Decius’s consultation with Cicero was well done in providing background information but disguised as advice. Lots of famous people in the book such as, Cicero, Pompey and Crassus as the dual consuls, Roman General Lucullus commander in Asia, and also Prince Tigranes of Armenia, brings history to life. The story provides a murder mystery along with a bit of history of ancient Roman and information into the daily life of a Roman. Makes for a fun read with a bit of education along the way. Simon Vance did his usual excellent job narrating the book.
People say I resemble my dog (and vice-versa). He can hear sounds I can't hear, but I'm the one who listens to audiobooks.
A young lawyer investigates a series of murders, uncovering political corruption, gangland rivalries, foreign intrigue, class warfare, femme fatales, and vast conspiracies. Film noir? A contemporary procedural? No -- it all takes place in ancient Rome in the waning days of the Republic, with a young Julius Caesar making a couple of cameo appearances long before his ascendancy to the role of emperor.
In the first half of the first book in his SPQR series, what John Maddox Roberts does best is paint a portrait of life in Rome, using the form of the modern murder mystery as a framework. And maybe if I read SPQR before watching the HBO series Rome, that might have been more interesting than it was -- predating the TV show by 15 years, the Rome of SPQR, even with its murders and swordplay, is quite tame.
But the big problem with SPQR is that the mystery fails. Big time. "Why am I telling you all this?" says the villain to the lawyer during the final hour after explaining the reason behind the murders. The Talking Villain -- one of the most hackneyed, trite, and laziest of mystery conventions. Long ago discredited. And in any credible mystery, you have to give the reader a chance to figure things out along the way -- the reveals in SPQR are totally out of left field in terms of who done it as well as why they done it.
Newsflash, JMR: The game of chess was not invented during Roman times, and was still a millenium away from reaching Europe -- one thousand years! Maybe you thought it was OK for you to include such a blatant anachronism since Shakespeare included a number of them in Julius Caesar. Further newsflash, JMR: You are no Shakespeare.
Adventure and suspense please!
I finished it. But I'm glad its over. The narration was over the top and unbelievable. The story a disguised history lesson. It wasn't bad, just not all that great.
Having finished Ruth Downie's mystery series of books about a doctor in Roman Britian, I started the SPQR series in great anticipation. I was excited because Simon Vance was the narrator and he had also narrated Downie's books. I was looking for something with a bit more detail about Roman life and more setting details. I was disappointed. Not because this book didn't provide what I was looking for in terms of detail but because it provided so much detail and back story that there was little new story. At only 7 1/2 hours, way to much of the time was spent by the author on having to explain the intricacies of the government, military and judicial aspects of the Roman system. During the book, the protagonist interacts with or discusses every single prominent Roman of the day, often as a means of explaining a brief happening. The names and the politial allegiance began to run together, and by the end, I wasn't quite sure what was going on or why. Maybe if I had read the book so I could have flipped back and checked earlier narrative sections it would have been better. As it was, by the time the book ended, I really didn't care who did it. And I never connected with Metellus. If you are well versed in Roman history, this might be the book for you. If you are looking for a story that moves and entertains, go with Ruth Downie or Lindsey Davis.
I enjoy reading about ancient rome.
Liked all of it
I am planning to listen to the entire series
This is the kind of book where you can just relax and listen to you. It asks nothing from you but time well spent.
No, not to that extent, but it was interesting. The pace was slow, but not boring.
I listened to the book around a holiday in Rome, and I enjoyed combining pleasure with some education, since the author seemed to have done a good amount of research on the period, and he peppered the story with explanations and historical colour, without weighing down the narrative unpleasantly.
If you, as I, sob while watching "I Claudius" or when reading the "Twelve Caesars" this could be an emotional experience for you. The "hero" is a republican in the old sense of the word. Despite the setbacks for the integrity of <ROME> the last chapter than makes up for a great deal.
Any book I don't finish I give only one or two stars. This book suffered from one of the worst audiobook afflictions a listener can encounter: being boring. The plot plods along with characters we are told are really bad, but there's little beyond one or two encounters to shape them into more than that.
Its a standard who dunnit, although set in ancient Rome. I got about 4/5ths through it but once I stop caring about the characters there's no point in continuing. While narrator Simon Vance was able to provide enough to keep me going that far, at some point I have to care about..welll...something!
I also wasn't able to suspend my disbelief that a politician would be out in the streets trying to solve a crime. Doesn't he have people for that?
"has promise but its hard going"
hard going and to over detailed at times to the point of repeating
a bit damp
he is a good reader
"Welcome to another Roman"
There seems to be endless interest in the Roman Empire, but Roberts is a welcome addition to the field. His hero is rather similar to that of Lindsey Davis and others, but quite sympathetic, and Roberts has a nice eye for what was happening in Rome, bringing in some of the important characters as the bit parts they would have been at the time.
Simon Vance reads the character well and it is good to know that there is at least one more to carry on what I hope will be a long series
"A true Roman"
This was an exciting introduction to this series. It was enjoyable to learn more about Roman and the Republic before the take over by Julius Ceasar and the like. It was not a nice place but John Maddox Roberts brings the story, the time and the place alive.
I shall look out for more from this author who has made a piece of Roman history entertaining and enjoyable. A real treat. A good narrator too.
This isn't a bad book but it is a bit flabby with lots of historical exposition esp at the start. I found the pronunciation of various Latin terms quite off-putting.
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