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by David Wishart
Hodder & Stoughton, September 2007
304 pages
7.99 GBP
ISBN: 0340840374

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Marcus Corvinus, born into the aristocracy, is asked by Titus Minicius Natalis to investigate the apparent suicide of a 19-year-old aristocrat who had been working at his first job, that of an arson investigator in Rome in 37AD. Natalis, being the Faction Master of the Greens, one of the racing clubs, has a lot of influence and even more money. He offers Corvinus, who inherited a large amount of money from his grandmother, 50,000 silver pieces to find out the truth behind the death of young Papinus.

Corvinus has a wife who seems to stay home most of the time. She has agreed to dog-sit for a friend and Marcus comes home to a 120lb Gallic boar hound with execrable manners and an insatiable appetite. Perilla expects Corvinus to take Placida, the dog who is anything but, with him to work as he walks all over Rome looking for clues to Papinus' death. He determines that it was murder, not suicide and then has to figure out the why and who.

This is the 12th book in the series but the first I have come across. It is set in the last year of Tiberius' reign. The author, in a note, informs us as to which bits of the book are real and which are figments of his imagination.

I guess, if you care about the politics of first century Rome, you might find this interesting; however, I found it a pale imitation of Lindsey Davis' series set about 30 years further along in the first century, during the reign of Vespasian. SATURNALIA, just published, is the 18th book in that series which started several years before Wishart's. If I want political history, I will watch I, Claudius again (adapted by Jack Pulman from the books by Robert Graves). I much prefer the social history as presented by Davis.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, June 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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