It is the duty of Arcturus, physician to the governor Agricola, to discover who killed the mysterious Maecenas, a man with a message for Agricola. Maecenas is found draped unceremoniously over a sacred altar with his throat cut open, but the blood around him is not his own and the throat wound didn’t kill him. Who did kill him, and why? What is the future for Agricola – and for Arcturus?
This book is marketed as “Roman noir” and I think that suits it very well. Setting a mystery in Roman Britain is a great idea and surprisingly, the noir genre works very well in the context of Londinium. At times I felt like I was watching a classic film even though I was clearly reading a book set in a place distant from any of them. The problem is, though, that I didn’t really like the book much. It took me days to read and I just wasn’t interested in the resolution of the mystery. I was generally confused and I felt as though the main character was making connections without letting me know. This is very common for me and mysteries though, so it’s probably just me. I was hoping that since it was historical fiction, it might have a little more for me to grasp, but I didn’t find that to be the case.
Worse, Arcturus falls in love in the course of the book. He meets her, she warns him about Maecenas, and then he’s in love, without any conversation or idea of who she is, and then all of a sudden he wants to marry her. I really, really hate unbelievable love stories and I think that biased me against the book before it really got going. I think there may have been some backstory involved between the two, but it is not described here. Maybe in future books. I tried to be objective, but if the love is not even slightly plausible, I find it difficult to follow the rest of the book. It wrapped up nicely, but I didn’t think reading the ending was worth the rest of the book.
I feel somewhat guilty writing this review because I can see that the author put a great deal of effort into the book, particularly with research, and I honestly think that this is just me not liking mysteries. I thought it would feel more like historical fiction, but it’s definitely mystery. I should have known better, but I do owe a review and I can only give my own opinion.
So, in conclusion, I think if you like mysteries, you may like this one as well. I don’t, and I didn’t like this one, but among reviewers, I seem to be the odd one out. So, you can still check it out on Amazon. And I found this review, which summarizes how I felt but with a writer who enjoys mysteries, so you can see the difference! You can also check out this review at The Tome Traveller. If you’ve reviewed this book, please let me know so I can link to your blog as well.