A grim discovery during a time of great turmoil for the Roman Empire drives Rowe’s 15th whodunit, one of her best featuring pavement maker Longinus Flavius Libertus (after 2013’s Dark Omens). In 192 C.E., Marcus Septimus Aurelius, Libertus’s patron, travels from Britain to Rome to congratulate his friend Helvius Pertinax on his ascension to emperor. When Libertus stops by Marcus’s estate to oversee some farming work, he’s disturbed to find the estate’s gate open and unattended. He soon learns why when he finds the gatekeeper’s hanged corpse. Since the man’s hands are bound behind him, he obviously isn’t a suicide. As Libertus investigates, he’s posed with as challenging a puzzle as he’s ever encountered. This suspenseful outing, with its unexpected twists, compares favorably with the work of such masters of this subgenre as Gary Corby and Steven Saylor. Spoiler alert: readers not conversant with the historical details of the period might want to skip the foreword. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/10/2014 Release date: 01/01/2015 Genre: Fiction
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