Surgeon Getorius Asterius, his wife Arcadia, the eunuch archpriest of a pagan fertility cult, the female head of a heretical Arian church, and an ambitious senator in league with a Chinese merchant: These are the prime movers in this mystery set in Ravenna, Italy, in A.D. 440. When Getorius is summoned to examine the castrated body of a youth found by Thecla in her Arian church, who is the sobbing "Vestal Virgin" nearby? Is there any connection between this crime and the fact that a senator is smuggling counterfeit Western coins to the Eastern Empire, and contraband Chinese products back to Ravenna?
A coded message leads to a secret tunnel and the sinister temple of Cybele, whose devotees are self-mutilated eunuchs. In a stunning climax, the conspirators try to escape Ravenna, planning to sell their products in Egypt, but failing to recognize the deadly nature of what they are carrying.…
This is an interesting Historical period. Ravenna after the collapse of the Ancient Roman Empire. The author is very knowledgeable about the period and it shows in the details.
However, the plot and main characters leave something to be desired. They are basically not very interesting. The detectives are a husband and wife team of Doctors - we learn a lot about the state of medicine in this particular period. But neither Arcadia and her husband Getorius are particular good detectives. They miss clue after clue and walk into trap after trap. At the heart of the story is the mystery of counterfeiting coins combined with the activities of the hidden cult of Cybelle and the arrival of a merchant from China. The ending is quite exciting as everyone rushes to raise the harbor chain to prevent the villains from escaping by boat to Alexandria
There are plenty of interesting characters in the story who make cameo appearances. But the author spends too much time in monologues by the two main characters over the current affairs they find themselves in. This drags the book down and make it very dull in places.
Nevertheless it was an interesting read, but would not read another by this author. More than a mystery it is a tour of life in Ravenna in the 5th Century. The fact that so few novels exist about this period, makes it a worthwhile read, but don't expect the excitement and fast pace of many modern mysteries.
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Interesting characters in a fascinating historical setting. And I didn't figure out the mystery until it was revealed. A series worth following.
I was looking forward to an historically based mystery with this book. The storyline was fairly interesting and convoluted and probably a great deal of research had gone into the medical aspects but the whole was spoiled for me by the narrator. Fleet Cooper affected a very strange form of the "Queen's English" while he narrated the story where emphases were placed unnaturally; for example "thee"s instead of "the" and overly obvious "a"s where it was unnessessary, hindering the meaning of the sentence. The different characters were well differentiated and skillfully voiced but even one or two had this strange form of speaking. It strikes me that its what an American might imagine 1950s BBC English should sound like! I found it very distracting and towards rhe end of the book I had almost got to the point where I was counting how many "thee"s were popping up in each paragraph instead of hearing the story. The author is no Lindsay Davis and neither of the main characters were a patch on Marcus Didius Falco. I got to the point where I didn't really care much what was happening to Getorius or his wife Arcadia! This might not bother you so do listen to the sample before you buy, but in my opinion, if you are looking for an authentic historical chunk of fiction with likeable protagonists, don't bother with this book, go back to Lindsay Davis and his Falco series.