"Readers looking for a crafty and entertaining journey to the past won't be disappointed."
—Publishers Weekly on SPQR XI: Under Vesuvius
Caius Julius Caesar, now Dictator of Rome, has decided to revise the Roman calendar, which has become out of sync with the seasons. As if this weren't already an unpopular move, Caesar has brought in astronomers and astrologers from abroad, including Egyptians, Greeks, Indians and Persians. Decius is appointed to oversee this project, which he knows rankles the Roman public: "To be told by a pack of Chaldeans and Egyptians how to conduct their duties towards the gods was intolerable." Not long after the new calendar project begins, two of the foreigners are murdered. Decius begins his investigations and, as the body count increases, it seems that an Indian fortuneteller popular with patrician Roman ladies is also involved.
This latest in the acclaimed series is sure to please historical mystery fans.
Time is running out for Julius Caesar, whose assassination is little more than a year away, in Roberts's fine 13th whodunit to feature Sen. Decius Metellus as sleuth (after 2008's SPQR XII: Oracle of the Dead). As 46 B.C. draws to an end, Caesar is turning the Roman Republic upside down by ordering the institution of a new calendar and assuming even more dictatorial power. Names familiar from Shakespeare, like Brutus and Cassius, are already gathering to voice their dissent. Meanwhile, Decius looks into the deaths of two astronomers, whose necks were broken by a method that stumps Rome's best doctors. The astronomers' links to the unpopular Julian calendar and to Caesar's mistress, Cleopatra, provide multiple avenues for Decius's investigation, which his wife, Julia, once again assists. That readers know Caesar's ultimate fate in no way detracts from the enjoyment of this inventive historical.