The Corpus Conundrum: A Third Case from the Notebooks of Pliny the Younger
As the title suggests, this is the third book of a series featuring Pliny the Younger. Using Pliny’s first person point of view allows the author to insert occasional bits of exposition disguised as Pliny’s own thoughts. The Roman historian Tacitus is also brought into the story as a friend of Pliny’s, and as the sidekick off of whom Pliny can bounce ideas.
The story revolves around a mysterious character named Aristeas, who has the habit of falling into a death-like condition on occasion – and then coming back to life. Pliny becomes involved in the case when he finds the “dead body” of Aristeas on his property. When the “body” disappears overnight, the mystery deepens, and there is speculation that this Aristeas might be the same Aristeas that Herodotus mentioned and whose soul, as some thought, had the ability to leave his body and then return.
As the story progresses, a parade of strange characters begin to show up on Pliny’s property, some dead, some not. Among the living are two people claiming to be Aristeas’s children – with both denying the other’s claim.
The book is well-written, and the characterizations are excellent. On the negative side, there are enough typos to fill the stable where Pliny stuffs the bodies that keep piling up. But this novel is more than just a typical who-done-it mystery because of the hints of Twilight Zone phenomena throughout. The bottom line is that it kept me interested. I had not read either of the first two novels in this series, but that is not necessary as this is a good stand-alone. The history is well researched, so for those who enjoy a little mystery with their history, I highly recommend this book.