Rowe’s 14th whodunit set in second-century Britain (after 2012’s A Whispering of Spies) offers a surprisingly undramatic story line, given the events roiling the Roman Empire at the time. News of the death of the capricious and tyrannical emperor Commodus alarms the citizens of Glevum (the modern-day Gloucester). Given the inconsistencies in reports of the cause of death, some fear that the emperor has spread the rumor of his death as a ruse to identify those opposed to his regime who might now express their political views. Against this backdrop, magistrate Gaius Mommius Genialis, who’s about to marry a widow whose first husband perished at sea, hires pavement maker Longinus Flavius Libertus to replace a mosaic in the widow’s home that the artisan once made depicting a boat. Genialis promises Libertus a large bonus if he completes the work quickly. When Genialis vanishes, ascertaining his fate becomes the book’s main puzzle. Rowe has done a better job in previous entries of mixing mystery with history. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/14/2013 Release date: 12/01/2013 Genre: Fiction
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