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SPQR I: The King's Gambit | [John Maddox Roberts]

SPQR I: The King's Gambit

John Maddox Roberts takes listeners back to a Rome filled with violence and evil. Vicious gangs ruled the streets of Crassus and Pompey, routinely preying on plebeian and patrician alike. So the garroting of a lowly ex-slave and the disembowelment of a foreign merchant in the dangerous Subura district seemed of little consequence to the Roman hierarchy.
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Publisher's Summary

In this Edgar Award-nominated mystery, John Maddox Roberts takes listeners back to a Rome filled with violence and evil. Vicious gangs ruled the streets of Crassus and Pompey, routinely preying on plebeian and patrician alike. So the garroting of a lowly ex-slave and the disembowelment of a foreign merchant in the dangerous Subura district seemed of little consequence to the Roman hierarchy.

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.

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (635 )
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4.3 (528 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Dennis United States 04-20-14
    Dennis United States 04-20-14 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A SHORT BUT REALLY ENJOYABLE READ"

    This is the kind of book where you can just relax and listen to you. It asks nothing from you but time well spent.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    seeker 03-17-14
    seeker 03-17-14 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    77
    5
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    "I learned a great deal about ancient Rome."
    What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

    Though the reader represented the 'older' hero remembering a life...he lacked the strength of voice and residue of the sex appeal that he seems to have had when younger.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Though a very good reader...I was not convinced that the owner of the voice was capable of the courageous and dangerous acts he claimed to have survived.


    Any additional comments?

    I am already listening to SPQR II..so the complaints I make are minor.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marie 02-04-12
    Marie 02-04-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Maybe better read than in audio"

    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.

    10 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dubi New York, NY, United States 05-03-15
    Dubi New York, NY, United States 05-03-15

    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.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Anachrophobia"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peter and Katherine 04-20-15 Member Since 2012

    Adventure and suspense please!

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    "eh."

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Silvia 12-26-14
    Silvia 12-26-14 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    14
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    "SPQR is a great series"
    What made the experience of listening to SPQR I the most enjoyable?

    I enjoy reading about ancient rome.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    No favorite


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Liked all of it


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    yes


    Any additional comments?

    I am planning to listen to the entire series

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    pierre-luc Arnprior, ON, Canada 06-06-12
    pierre-luc Arnprior, ON, Canada 06-06-12 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Solid mystery set in Ancient Rome"
    Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat? How?

    No, not to that extent, but it was interesting. The pace was slow, but not boring.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wadie Santa Ana, CA, United States 09-21-08
    Wadie Santa Ana, CA, United States 09-21-08 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Sob!!"

    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.

    9 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sean 06-21-14
    Sean 06-21-14
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "This book is boring, but the narrator almost...."

    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?

    6 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    marcus@u. 07-26-15
    marcus@u. 07-26-15 Member Since 2012
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    2
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    "Terrific Historical Who-dun-it"

    I bought this book on a whim, eventually listened to the whole series, love it!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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