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Saturday, May 4, 2013

Roman Games by Bruce Macbain

Genre: Historical Mystery

Setting Ancient Rome in the first century AD.

First Sentence: A brassy sun beat down on the barren rock that for six weeks and four days had been Flavia Domitilla's prison.

This novel is the first in Macbain's Plinius Segundus series.

It is the time of the emperor Domitian.  He is a cruel and unpopular ruler.  Just before the annual Roman Games, one of his informers is found murdered in his bed.  According to Roman law, when a slave owner is murdered in his home, his slaves are tortured and executed.  This is to prevent slaves from even considering the killing of their owner.

Enter our main character Plinius Segundus, or as we know him in English, Pliny the Younger.  Pliny is a lawyer.  His specialty is probate law.  Unwillingly, he has been pressed into service as vice-prefect of Rome.  It is in this capacity that Pliny is asked to look into the slaying of the informant.

Most Roman officers would make a cursory review of the facts, torture the slaves, and make their report.  But Pliny's sense of justice leads him to actually investigating the case.  He feels that torturing and executing the slaves is unfair and unjust.  So, he tries to solve the case in a way that might save the slaves from their horrible fate.

Pliny does not know that the murder he is investigating is part of a much larger political conspiracy.  There are those who are plotting the assassination of the emperor himself.

Can Pliny solve the mystery, save the slaves, and avoid being on the wrong side of the impending political upheaval?

This novel was an enjoyable read.  The author is well-versed in Roman history, and it shows.  His knowledge and research allow him to create a realistic and believable setting for his story.  The author has included several characters who were actual historical figures.  And, the plot of the novel meshes with historical fact.

I liked the book and I look forward to reading the second novel in the series.

Roman Games

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