SPQR XIII: The Year of Confusion
John Maddox Roberts
Minotaur, Feb 16 2010, $24.99
In the year 46 BC in Rome, Caius Julius Caesar is now the Director of Rome. He plans to rebuild the city making it grander as expected of the capital of a great empire. One of his pet projects is to create a new calendar using astronomers and astrologers from around the world. Thus he appoints Senator Decius Caecilius to oversee the project alongside of Cleopatra’s head astronomer Sosigenes.
At first Decius is more concerned with Cleopatra being in the city than he is of a bunch of scientists creating a new calendar. However the situation turns dangerous when an astronomer Denades is murdered with his neck broken. He has strange markings on his neck but the doctor feels it it hard to judge how the killer made them. Even the Chief Physician in Rome does not how the killer was able to extinguish is prey. Caesar orders Decius to find the killer, which proves difficult to accomplish because all suspects are lying about something or concealing something.
As always John Maddox Roberts writes a fantastic Ancient Roman mystery that gives the reader a sense of the era and the culture during the time of Caesar. This enables the audience to envision the City-State Empire warped inside a whodunit. Decius is a great detective, whose investigation is all the more remarkable because of the limitations of sleuthing in the first century BC. Sub-genre fans will enjoy joining him on his inquiry.