Requiem for a Slave: A Libertus Mystery of Roman Britain

Written by Rosemary Rowe
Review by Mary F. Burns

Citizen Libertus is a designer of decorative tiles for wealthy Romans living in the westernmost outpost of the Empire’s lands: Britain in AD 170, and specifically, the town of Glevum (modern Gloucester). And of course, he’s a detective! This is a cozy village mystery in a time long before Miss Marple peered through her cottage windows in St. Mary Mead, but the elements are pretty much the same: eccentric villagers, a couple of dead bodies, the local careful observer who uses his or her wits, experience and happenstance to solve the crime, usually at some personal risk. The plot for this tenth Libertus mystery is convoluted if a bit thin, but the characters are likeable, and one hopes they will not come to harm as they track down the murderer. Rowe’s introduction to the story provides a solid context for these early Romano-British times which is helpful, and the book itself has plenty of historical information (possibly too much) about the daily lives and work of the people from slaves to tradesmen to government officials. Although this is the first of these mysteries which I have read, I discerned a touch of “series fatigue” in the writing: some repetitive diction, a less-than-clear plotline, and a hastily drawn conclusion that left me wondering if I had missed a chapter at the end. Overall though, it’s a light, enjoyable read that made me think it might be worth trying some of the earlier novels in the series.