This is the fifth in Steven Saylor's "Roma Sub Rosa" series: murder mysteries set in classical Rome just before the fall of the Empire. Once again, Saylor's sleuth is Gordoianus the Finder, a sort of Sam Spade in a toga, who is hired by the rich and infamous of Roman society to solve their personal and political troubles. This time the powerful politician Publius Clodius is murdered on an open road and as riots break out, the fate of the Republic is in doubt. The plotting is deft and the action -- both physical and intellectual -- is nonstop. Most of the characters here are heterosexual but Saylor (who also writes great erotica under the name Aaron Travis) brings a critical gay sensibility to his tales that forms the cultural and emotional crux of his work.
From Publishers Weekly
Turmoil strikes Rome in A.D. 52 in this stand-out novel by the author of The Venus Throw. Once again, Gordianus the Finder is put in the delicate position of having to solve a crime and keep his own counsel amid the scheming and duplicitous rulers of Rome. Publius Clodius, a powerful populist politician with an unsavory personal life, is murdered while traveling on the Appian Way. The prime suspect is Clodius's arch rival, patrician Titus Milo, and the repercussions are many-for the state, the judicial system and the military. Gordianus is brought into the case by his neighbor, Cicero, who is defending Milo and needs a bit of discreet detective work. Gordianus doesn't have much use for "lawyers," especially not for the silver-tongued Cicero, whose motives he distrusts, but the case is too intriguing to turn down. An unusual and morally sturdy character, Gordianus is honest without being sanctimonious, a savvy observer of the political scene who never loses his integrity. He's also a clear and faithful narrator. Soon, he finds himself dealing with the likes of Pompey, Caesar and Mark Antony as he unravels the complicated threads of the crime. Meanwhile, Rome is burning as Clodius's followers riot to avenge their murdered leader. The suspense never lags as Saylor spins a sophisticated political thriller that also brings his readers up to speed on their Roman history.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.