Gillian Bradshaw, Author . Forge $27.95 (464p) ISBN 978-0-7653-0653-1

In this fine historical thriller set in Rome in 16 B.C., Hermogenes, a well-to-do Greek trader from Alexandria, travels to the capital city to collect a debt owed to him by a powerful Roman consul, Tarius Rufus. When Hermogenes attempts to dun the general, Rufus physically attacks him, then seeks to worm out of his obligations through legal loopholes. Hermogenes will not relent; his uncle was ruined and his father met his death as a result of the debt, and Hermogenes has come seeking justice. When Rufus sends goons to waylay Hermogenes, the trader is rescued by Cantabra, a former female gladiator (in an author's note, Bradshaw informs us there were, indeed, women fighters in the arena during this era). Cantabra becomes Hermogenes's bodyguard. Hermogenes next tries to sell the debt to the duplicitous Pollio, Rufus's principle creditor. While at Pollio's compound, Hermogenes overhears a plot between Pollio and Consul Rufus to assassinate Titus Statilius Taurus, the Prefect of Rome, to incite riots, and then to quell them—all as a way of gaining favor with Caesar. Cantabra knows Taurus from her gladiator days, and she and Hermogenes manage to convince the prefect that Pollio and Rufus are in cahoots against him. Bradshaw's Rome is superbly rendered, with all the sights, sounds and—particularly—the smells of the period. Unfortunately, her Greek trader is a bit of an anachronism whose perpetual concern for the well-being of every slave he owns or meets seems more akin to modern liberal compassion than to the attitude a man of the period might possess. Nevertheless, Bradshaw has produced a solid evocation of fascinating and dangerous times. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 07/28/2003
Release date: 08/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 464 pages - 978-0-7653-0654-8
Ebook - 464 pages - 978-1-4299-7114-0
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