shannon_a: (Default)
Just finished Saturnalia, the fifth of the SPQR books by John Maddox Roberts. I checked it out from the library and, alas, it had the faint smell of Lysol on all its pages. The trials and travails of library books!

Back to Rome! And some variety in the series. Our hero, Decius, is starting to get some respect from his peers. His father actually calls him in to look into this murder, the apparent poisoning of one of his kinsmen. Though we do get some of the same 'ole "we can't prosecute because of politics", when Decius actually figures out what's going on in the end ... he takes things into his own hands. It's good to see both the evolution of Decius' character and his relation with others.

There's also a surprising amount of continuity. A lot of the situation and the mystery comes out of setup in earlier books. I kinda wished I remember them better ...
shannon_a: (Default)
Read the first SPQR short today. At 17 pages long, it was scarcely worth getting the book from the library. It was a tight little murder mystery set directly after the previous book, as Decius heads back from Alexandria.

I vaguely considered paging through the huge mass of other stories in Classical Whodunnits and finally decided that I'd do better to look at reviews or recommendations when and if I want another mystery series. So, with the 17 pages read, the book is going back to the Library.
shannon_a: (Default)
Just finished The Day of the Muses, which is the fourth SPRQ book by John Roberts.

It was a very nice change-of-pace book because it took place in Alexandria (Egypt) rather than Rome. Decius still had his typical problems of facing disbelief or indifference from his Romans peers, but at least the Egyptian King was somewhat more interested (while not drunk). Mind you, the main villain got away, as ever, because of political influence--but this time Decius assures us that in 12 years' time he's going to get his (because Decius writes from the future, sometime after the fall of the Republic).

It was also neat to see this series move entirely into the time of Rome (the TV series) as we hear that the Triumvirate is sectioning up the world over on the other side of the Mediterranean.

Another fun little read.

Edit: Figured I was done with SPQR for the year, but I see that the next chronological story is a short story, so I've ordered Classical Whodunnits through LINK+ before I forget. I'll have to read about the other authors within, when I get it, and see if any are worth reading ...
shannon_a: (Default)
Finished off SPQR III today. This is third book in the series of Roman mysteries that I started reading earlier this year.

It indeed was much like the others (as Mary had promised was true of the series): Decius starts looking into a murder and (the semi-spoilers start here) finds out that major figures in Rome are involved and despite that he continues working away on the problem though he's in way over his head (politically).

This book was interesting in that Decius never got to make his accusations of guilt. Instead he's run out of Rome by, well, elephants. That was a bit different from the others in the series and a relatively brave way to end the book.

I also like the fact that we're seeing some increasing continuity, as Julius Caesar has taken an interest both in Decius' abilities and his romantic future. It'll be interesting to see where that goes.

Still a good series, both for its mystery and for its history, though the latter probably trumps the former.

This book was set in year 693 or Rome or 61 BC, which would be pretty shortly after the last one.
shannon_a: (Default)
Having completed SPQR II, I see what Mary meant when she said that she got a bit bored by the sameness of the books.

Herein, our hero investigates a murder, learns that it's part of a larger conspiracy, is seduced by a girl who tries to lure him away from the investigation, meets numerous important historical figures, eventually is able to bring lower-prestige members of the conspiracy to justice, but has to watch the big fish get away, makes some powerful enemies in the process, and decides that he'd do well to leave Rome for a bit as a result.

Which could describe the plot to either I or II.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed the book. Kimberly & I are still watching Rome, so one of the great pleasures was seeing some of the historical elements in a slightly different context.

I was most surprised by how far the timeline jumped in this book, from year 684 of Rome in the last book to 691-692 of Rome in this one, which should be 63-62 BC or so.

I'll do my best to resist the next book for a while, rather than ruining the series by reading it too fast.
shannon_a: (Default)
Last month on Xenagia, bofh asked how you find new books to read. I find, as often as not, that new books fall into my lap my serendipity. Take as an example, SPQR, a series of Roman mystery books by John Maddox Roberts.

I was predisposed to be interested in a book about ancient Rome because I've been watching the Rome TV show on DVD. Then, George R.R. Martin mentioned in a blog post that he was sharing a signing event with John Maddox Roberts, who just released SPQR XII. Serendipity!

(I should also thank the internet, which makes it possible for me to remember to get a book that interests me, where it might have just slipped my mind 10 years ago. Now I log straight on to my library's web site, and reserve a copy, and somewhere between 1-7 days later, they tell me it's ready to be picked up.)

Anyway, SPQR. This is a set of mysteries taking place in ancient Rome. The first one is set in "year 684 of the City of Rome", which I think makes it 70BC, or about 15 years before the events of Rome.

The mystery itself is very complex, involving political machinations and many powerful folks in Rome. I'm not sure if that's going to be par for the course, or if we're going to get smaller mysteries as well. I kinda' hope the latter.

I adore the fact that Roberts freely plays with many historical personages, among them Pompey, Crassus, Caesar, Tigranes, and Cicero. It really makes me want to learn more about this period of history. Roberts manages this all in a very immersive way, giving me a great feeling of cultural authenticity.

In many ways, I find the fact of the mystery perhaps the least element of the book, something to hold together all his great cultural history.

I chatted with Mary about this book over the weekend, and she said she'd read the first 3 or so books in the series before getting burned out due to a sense of sameness ... which tells me I should read these books slowly so as not to ruin then. Which makes sense; the SPQR books aren't the pure brain candy of many of the mysteries that I read.

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