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Being under suspicion of murder did not hamper my freedom. This is because Romans are civilized people and don't clap suspects into prison like barbarians do. It would take an order of a lawfully convened court even to place me under house arrest.
That's Decius Caecilius Metellus speaking---Senator Decius Caecilius Metellus, please. He is at an outdoor rally in Rome where he is campaigning for election to the praetorship. It looks like a shoo-in, until a man named Fulvius, of whom Decius has never heard, arrives at the preelection proceedings with a small army of hoodlums and begins to shout to the assembled voters that Decius is a thief and worse. While this is not an unknown effort used to ruin a candidate's chances, it is enough to have Decius's father call a meeting of family and friends--a meeting that ends with the participants going home determined to find some answers to stop Fulvius's efforts to ruin Decius's chances.
Early the next morning, however, as Decius and his friends are on their way to the trial, Fulvius's body is found slashed to death on the steps of the basilica, where the court will be sitting. And that doesn't look good for our hero.
For those readers who have met Decius before, the next step is clear: the man is a brilliant detective, and he is certainly now in a position where that skill is needed. So it's doubly important for Decius, with the help of his wife, Julia, and the ex-slave Hermes, to find the solution to the most personal---and possibly most difficult---puzzle that has come his way.
The political turmoil that precedes Julius Caesar's return to Rome serves as the compelling backdrop for Roberts's 10th historical to feature nobleman Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger (after 2005's The Princess and the Pirates). Decius is standing for election as praetor, a judicial position that's viewed as a stepping-stone to a governorship. On the eve of the vote, an unknown man, Marcus Fulvius, accuses Decius of corruption, threatening what had seemed like a sure thing. Still reeling from the charges, Decius finds himself in deeper trouble after Fulvius turns up dead. Aided by family members and friends, Decius teases out the competing powers with a stake in his defeat. The death throes of the Roman Republic are a worthy setting for a thriller, and Roberts displays his usual deftness in making the period come to life. Those more interested in the murder's solution may be disappointed by the Perry Mason like device employed to expose the culprit.