Death at Pompeia’s Wedding
This is the latest in the series of Libertus detective stories written by Rosemary Rowe. As Rosemary Aitken, she has written a series of Cornish sagas set at the end of the 19th century. Libertus is a freed slave, whose trade was that of mosaic maker. An expert on patterns and puzzles, he turns his hand to whodunits for his patron, who is Marcus Aurelius Septimus. Marcus is wealthy and politically influential in the Roman province of Britain.
The novels are placed at the end of the second century AD, in south-west Britain. Marcus is off to Rome but has a wedding invitation. He summons Libertus and asks him to attend the wedding as his representative. A death on the wedding day provides Libertus’ first challenge, and the novel’s premise.
The narrative flows easily and the plot develops at pace. Death at Pompeia’s Wedding is written in a simple and accessible style, which makes it a quick and entertaining read. Plot is all in a detective story, and this one twists and turns to a surprising conclusion. However, the plot is a little stretched to sustain itself over the pages. The use of Latin vocabulary gives a period feel, and the historical detailing appears realistic from a Roman perspective. However, the ‘Romanitas’ was not well balanced with the vernacular that coexisted; any native touches seemed additional rather than integral to the novel. Characterisation did not hook me nor persuade me of Libertus’ individuality in a very crowded, if popular, market for Roman detectives, although unfamiliarity with the rest of the series may be a problem in this respect.