Roman Nights

Ron Burns, Author St. Martin's Press $22.95 (340p) ISBN 978-0-312-06455-6
Ancient Rome has been used as the background for a surprising number of novels in recent years but rarely with such effectiveness and power as in this impressive first novel. Livinius Severus is a lawyer on his way up, a man whose solid reputation and public adherence to Stoic principles--not to mention his fortunate marriage--have put him on the fast track. It is with understandable reluctance that he finally decides to aid a beautiful young woman who asks him to investigate her powerful husband, since investigators, or delators , are looked upon with disdain. Before he can even begin, however, his client turns up dead at the site of a wild orgy, with her purported husband standing over her body holding a knife. That event is soon obscured by a wave of beheadings of prominent young Stoics and the escalating exposure of a dark underside of Roman life. The only hope for preserving order may be the direct intervention of the beloved philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius, but he is off at war, most likely dying and most certainly not inclined to face the fact that there is a plot against him led by his son and heir, Commodus. Readers familiar with Roman history will know the inevitable ending to all this, but the true appeal of this narrative lies in the personal trials of Livinius Severus and his growing realization of both his limitations and his strengths. Burns's detailed recreation of the time and place make for marvelous reading. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/30/1991
Release date: 10/01/1991
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