The Tribune: A Novel of Ancient Rome
Lucius Aurelius Valens is a young man with a talent for getting himself into trouble. In his second military assignment, Syria, he discovers that his superior and the governor of the province are corrupt, and he exposes them. Lucius is quickly transferred to Galilee, to command the third Gallic Cavalry, but on his way to his new post, Lucius and his troops stumble upon a massacre. Decius Junius Silanus, friend and political ally of Emperor Tiberius, is dead and so are his guards. Lucius knows what he must do: “strike back, hard and fast and fiercely.” In other words, wipe out the nearest village, Nazara. Only Lucius doesn’t think the people of Nazara are involved. Why has Silanus been murdered? What has brought such an exalted personage to poor Judea? And how does a young enigmatic carpenter fit into the story?
Patrick Larkin, co-author of five other thriller and espionage novels, writes directly, with a compelling narrative and descriptive detail. Halfway through, however, Larkin goes astray, introducing an irrelevant love interest that slows down and adds little to the plot. The eleventh-hour surprise ending is also less than satisfying. Still, Larkin has talent for evoking atmosphere and creating characters. Rather than parade his research, he skillfully and naturally weaves relevant facts into scenes and dialogue, which, in a historical novel, is no small accomplishment.