The Judgment of Caesar
This tenth entry in the Roma Sub Rosa series takes Gordianus the Finder and most of his familia to Egypt in 48 BC. The family includes the young slave boys Mopsus and Androcles, a mute bodyguard Rupa left over from a previous case, an ill wife Bethesda who disappears into the Nile and an estranged son Meto who serves with Caesar. As is ever his fate, the relatively apolitical Finder becomes involved in the central events of Roman history, this time bearing witness to the beheading of Pompey and Cleopatra rolling out of her rug as a present for Caesar. Saylor brings fresh characterization to frequently visited material. His Cleopatra competes with her younger brother Ptolemy for Caesar’s sexual interest, and it certainly seems that this Caesar could go either way. Saylor has dealt with Caesar before, and his portrait is unusual in that it portrays neither a monster nor a demigod. In any case, he is rumored to be more than a tent mate to Meto.
The author’s note gives us a useful summary of ancient and modern sources. A map of the Nile Delta and another of Alexandria enhance the excellent description of that most fascinating of ancient cities. As always, Saylor demonstrates mastery of the known historical facts and imaginative explanations for historical puzzles, usually in connection with the murder plot. The mysteriously murdered corpse does not make its appearance in this one until about two-thirds of the way through, but those who want a case to solve will have a conventional whodunnit, complete with clever clues and resolved with righteous reasoning.