Destitutio Quod Remissio

Written by Brett Armstrong
Review by Joanna Urquhart

Brett Armstrong’s debut novel is set during the reign of the Roman emperor Diocletian and hinges on his persecution of the Christians in the lands under his control. These persecutions were severe and sweeping, and Armstrong’s main character, Roman senator Marcus Servius, is directly caught up in them: when he is publicly revealed to be a Christian, his entire world is stripped from him. He goes on a quest to find the religious leader Benjamin Truvias, and although the book’s writing can be a bit murky and sanctimonious at times, Armstrong does a skilful job of mingling a plot about the testing and strengthening of Marcus Servius’s faith with a plot about him eventually discovering who it was who exposed him in the first place.

The book’s period details are unobtrusively well-researched, and the dialogue has a natural feel to it. Non-Christian readers may find the book’s openly evangelical undertones distracting, or at the very least reminiscent of Quo Vadis, a Roman historical novel with which Destitutio Quod Remissio has more in common than just a Latin title. On the whole this is solid, meaty work, and the climactic courtroom scene is well-handled.