Thursday, January 30, 2014

Roman Blood by Steven Saylor

Gordianus is a private investigator, called a Finder, working around 50 B.C. in Rome.  This series is rich with history and historical figures.  Gordianus even counts Cicero as his friend.  Roman Blood is the first book in the series called the "Roma Sub Rosa Series", meaning "the secret events of Rome".

From the book's description:
In the unseasonable heat of a spring morning in 80 B.C., Gordianus the Finder is summoned to the house of Cicero, a young advocate staking his reputation on a case involving the savage murder of  the wealthy, sybaritic Sextus Roscius. Charged with the murder is Sextus's son, greed being the apparent motive. The punishment, rooted deep in Roman tradition, is horrific beyond imagining.
The case becomes a political nightmare when Gordianus's investigation takes him through the city's raucous, pungent streets and deep into rural Umbria. Now, one man's fate may threaten the very leaders of Rome itself.

I've read most of the books in this series.  The stories are recounted in the first person, with the rather seedy Gordianus as the narrator.  It reads as if Gordianus writes the account only very shortly after it occurs.  The books in the series progressively become more historical novels than historical mysteries, and the writing aims for literature.

Saylor indulges in his books in the misogyny and sadism of the times with a bit too much enthusiasm for my tastes.  If you are into a vicarious, voyeuristic experience of this sort, then this is your series.  Gordianus even owns a female slave who is his housekeeper and sex-slave.

The second and third "books" in the series are actually collections of short stories that are more like "Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine" stories, aimed at a teenaged audience.  The books in the series, however, are aimed at an adult audience.  The author ages Gordianus quickly over the course of the early books.  The last book, The Seven Wonders, is a prequel set before the first book in the series.

The books in the series are:
  1. Roman Blood (you meet Gordianus and his client, Cicero, even the dictator Sulla)
  2. The House of the Vestals (short stories - you meet kindly, patrician, fictional Lucius Claudius, a client, then friend, who changes Gordianus's life for the wealthier, for a teen audience)
  3. A Gladiator Dies Only Once (short stories - don't read the notes at the end to avoid spoilers for the future books)
  4. Arms of Nemesis (G. meets rich Crassus, among others)
  5. Catilina's Riddle
  6. The Venus Throw (G. meets Claudius and Claudia, the decadent, devious siblings)
  7. A Murder on the Appian Way ( G. deals with Milo and Pompey)
  8. Rubicon (G. and Caesar)
  9. Last Seen in Massilia (G. deals with the siege of Marseille)
  10. A Mist of Prophecies (G. meets the most powerful women of Rome)
  11. The Judgment of Caesar (G. gets to know Caesar and Cleopatra)
  12. The Triumph of Caesar (G. deals with Caesar and his wife)
  13. The Seven Wonders (young G. visit the wonders- prequel, short stores for a teen audience)

The books are available in various formats including paperback, e-book, and audio-book.  Here are the versions of Roman Blood at

Visit the author's website.

Enjoy this amazing computerized recreation of the view of Ancient Rome:

Rome Reborn 2.2: A Tour of Ancient Rome in 320 CE from Bernard Frischer on Vimeo.

And this equally amazing and stunning recreation of an Ancient Roman home:

This review is by Candida Martinelli, of Candida Martinelli's Italophile Site, and the author of the cozy-murder-mystery novel AN EXTRA VIRGIN PRESSING MURDER, and the young-adult/adult mystery novel series THE VIOLET STRANGE MYSTERIES the first book of which is VIOLET'S PROBLEM.

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