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Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Princess and the Pirates by John Maddox Roberts

Genre: Historical Mystery

Setting: 51 BC, on the island of Cyprus.

First Sentence: Let me say at the outset that Cleopatra was not beautiful.

This is the ninth novel in Robert's SPQR series which runs to 14 novels and several short stories.

Speaking as an old man recounting the days of his youth, our main character Decius Caecilus Metellus, tells the story of how he fought pirates and met Cleopatra.

Decius is a young senator working on completing his resume so that he can have prestige and respect in the Senate.  He has just completed two successful years as an adile in Rome.  An adile is a sort of mid level government official.  Now he needs some military experience.  At the urging of his father, Decius accepts a commission to put down piracy in the East.

So he sails off to the Roman naval base at Cyprus.  When he arrives, Decius discovers that the base has been looted.  Between ambitious Roman generals and disreputable civil servants there is little equipment left to fight the pirates with.

While Decius is scrounging for supplies and manpower, he meets a very young Cleopatra.  She and her fabulous royal yacht are spending time in Cyprus avoiding the political intrigues of the Egyptian court.  She offers to add her yacht to Decius's small fleet as long as she can go along.  Decius reluctantly agrees.

Soon Decius learns that the pirates have spies and business connections on Cyprus.  When the local Roman governor gets himself murdered, Decius's job gets much more complicated.  As the ranking Roman official, he must investigate the murder.

Some how Decius must find a way to solve the crime and add to his senatorial resume.  In the end, Roman politics play a significant part in the ultimate solution to the mystery.

Although this novel is part of a series, I found that it was quite enjoyable as a stand alone novel.  The mystery plays a small part of the plot. I was completely surprised when the identity of the murderer was revealed.

I enjoyed this novel.  It was a pleasant read.


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