Friday, September 20, 2013

Death in the Ashes: A Fourth Case from the Notebooks of Pliny the Younger-Albert A. Bell Jr.

Death in the Ashes: A Fourth Case from the Notebooks of Pliny the Younger

Albert A. Bell Jr.

Perseverance, Sep 9 2013, $15.95

ISBN 9781564745323

In 84 AD Rome, twenty-something Gaius Pliny the Younger loves his childhood friend and servant Aurora. However his Mother wants the slave to show more respects towards her superiors and stay far away from her offspring. Mother also selected Livia, the daughter of Pompeia, as her son’s wife. In spite of being a lawyer, Pliny feels like a condemned man as he sees no way out of his marital dilemma.

Thamyras the servant arrives from Naples informing pregnant Aurelia that her wealthy husband Calpurnius is accused of murdering a freedwoman two days ago; and his refusal to defend himself adds to the common belief he killed the victim. Aurelia sends Thamyras to tell her friend Pliny, who rescued her a few years ago (see All Roads lead to Murder). Pliny questions the servant who says he saw the accused holding a knife while standing over the corpse, but never saw Calpurnius stabbed the woman. Reflecting back to when he last was in the city four years ago just after Vesuvius buried Pompeii killing his mentor, Pliny and Tacitus discuss the cold case as they travel to Naples to investigate the homicide.

The latest Notebooks of Pliny the Younger case (see The Blood of Caesar and The Corpus Conundrum) is an entertaining whodunit as the two sleuths realize a few days in Roman times means a cold case investigation. The aftermath of Vesuvius still haunts people with ash as a macabre visible reminder and ultimately important to this inquiry. Readers will appreciate this ancient mystery as the late Emperor Augustus dead for decades still impacts the living and the recently murdered.

Harriet Klausner

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