The Venus Throw

Steven W. Saylor, Author St. Martin's Press $22.95 (308p) ISBN 978-0-312-11912-6
Saylor (Catilina's Riddle) has established a fine reputation with his mystery novels set in ancient Rome and starring Gordianus the Finder, an early PI. In his fourth adventure, in 56 B.C., Gordianus is visited by Dio, his teacher of Greek philosophy 30 years earlier in Alexandria, who is now on an Egyptian delegation to Rome. Dio, whose fellow delegates are being killed, fears being poisoned; so Gordianus offers him an untainted dinner. Poor Dio dies that night anyway, stabbed and poisoned. Gordianus looks into the doings of his late teacher's companion, the eunuch priest Trygonion, who had accompanied Dio that evening. A beautiful, sex-hungry widow accuses Gordianus's neighbor, a young, loudmouthed lawyer, of murdering Dio, and she hires Gordianus to prove her charges. Saylor gives the widow a gloriously handsome, incest-inclined brother and sets his tale simmering with eroticism, adding engrossing historical filler about Roman law, politics and goddess cults. The result is a talky, absorbing brew of Rome's decay. The title refers to luck at dice. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/1995
Release date: 04/01/1995
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