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During the Roman Civil War, as the forces of Pompey and Julius Caesar fight a series of battles in the provinces over control of the Republic, Rome itself is a hotbed of intrigue as those left behind wait for word. In this tentative and treacherous environment, a beautiful young seeress is murdered in the marketplace. Possibly mad and claiming no memory of her own past, Cassandra - like her namesake - is reputed to have had the true gift of prophecy and, as a result, she became a confidante of the rich and powerful.
Gordianus the Finder, who had become obsessed with the woman and her mystery, starts to investigate her murder. As the political situation in Rome continues to decay, the citizenry veers towards ruin, and everyone waits for word out in the far off fields of war, Gordianus begins to peel away the veils of secrecy that surround Cassandra's life and death. What lies underneath involves one, possibly many, of the most powerful women in Rome and the truth could not only put Gordianus's life in danger but affect the very future of Rome itself.
In Saylor's ninth outstanding Roman historical (after 2000's Last Seen in Massilia), it's 48 B.C. and the Empire is wracked by civil war and civic unrest. In Rome, the beautiful and enigmatic seeress, Cassandra, has everyone from Forum "chin-waggers" to high-society matrons entranced by her convulsionlike attacks of prophecy. Gordianus the Finder, more captivated than most, finds himself involved professionally and romantically with the seeming madwoman. Officially he's retired from his finding duties, but he resumes the hunt after Cassandra, just before dying in his arms in the market, whispers, "She's poisoned me!" Seven of Rome's most influential women including Caesar's wife, Calpurnia attend the seeress's humble funeral. All have something to do with Cassandra's fate, just as she, in secret ways, has something to do with the fate of Rome itself. The action picks up as Gordianus interviews these women and tries to sort out their connections to Cassandra. Conversations among Gordianus's chin-waggers also serve to clarify the situation. As usual, Saylor's research is impeccable, but the history never distracts from the very human drama. Especially touching is Gordianus's wife, Bethesda, whose "malady" is a source of concern and mystery to her errant husband. With this intelligent and compelling story, Saylor shows once again why fans of ancient historicals regard him as the leader of the field. Author tour.