Five Star, Jul 2008, $25.95
In 83 AD Londinium, doctor Julius “Arcturus” Favonianus learns from widow Claudia “Gwyna” Catussa that his prime employer and friend Britannia Governor, Agricola is in trouble with Roman Emperor Domitian. Apparently the Emperor has sent fat avaricious Syrian Vibius Maecenas with papers demanding Agricola to resign. Gwyna further explains that the odious Syrian freeman is her sponsus.It was arranged by her dying father for her to marry the pig; she will kill herself before she allows him to impregnate her.
After she leaves, Arcturus sends his servant Bilicho to follow her. Not long after that, the Romans arrive to escort Arcturus to a hidden forbidden temple where Maecenas is dead looking like a ghastly imitation of Mithras slaying the bull. Arcturus with Bilicho to assist investigates the homicide that could lead to civil war between the Roman legion and the British even as he is attracted to the prime suspect Gwyna.
Although the resolution is weak; fans of ancient historical mysteries will enjoy this entertaining Britannia Noir as Arcturus escorts the audience to places not normally found in Roman Empire whodunits. Little things like a Roman name and a native name enhances a sense of time and place. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the soldiers take the lead character to the crime scene and never slows down as he investigates the homicide while fearing if he takes too long to resolve, hostilities will turn ugly. NOX DORMIENDA is an enjoyable first century amateur sleuth.