cover image House of the Vestals: Investigations of Gordianus the Finder

House of the Vestals: Investigations of Gordianus the Finder

Steven W. Saylor. St. Martin's Press, $22.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-312-15444-8

After five novels in the Roma Sub Rosa series (A Murder on the Appian Way, 1996), Saylor fills the time frame between the first two books--80 to 72 B.C.-- with this first collection of short stories featuring series sleuth Gordianus the Finder. In the crowded streets of late-Republic Rome, the rich and the poor, the living and the dead occupy close quarters. In ""The Lemures,"" a wealthy couple's home, previously owned by an executed political enemy, is haunted by the dead man's ghost. When the new owner dies unexpectedly, his widow is sure that the ghost will kill her next. Gordianus mines his knowledge of botany, history and human psyches to ferret out the solution. The nobleman Lucius Claudius, summoned into the house of dying young man to witness his signing of his will, days later sees the young man out walking. He asks the Finder to investigate and, as Gordianus follows the trial of deceit in ""A Will Is a Way,"" the two men embark upon a lasting friendship. Gordianus adopts a young mute boy, Eco; and his sultry Egyptian servant, Bethesda, gradually evolves from slave to friend to lover, and finally, wife. Her Egyptian-Jewish origins permit the author to incorporate sections of biblical lore in his stories. Saylor's fluid prose and probing characterization work as effectively in the short story as they have in his admirable Gordianus novels. (July)