SPQR Xl: Under Vesuvius

Written by John Maddox Roberts
Review by John R. Vallely

The author’s eleventh entry in the Decius Metellus SPQR series takes place in the difficult days of rivalry between Pompey and the ever-rising Julius Caesar. Our intrepid hero is newly established in a southern Italian location close to Mount Vesuvius. His position as Praetor Peregrinus requires him to step in and investigate the murder of Gorgo, the beautiful daughter of a powerful local priest. Suspicion falls on a young and handsome Numidian, Gelon, but Decius is skeptical and believes Gelon has been singled out simply because he is foreign and happens to be the son of a rich slave trader. Xenophobia and love play off one another as Decius navigates local politics and mores in his search for both fairness and the murderer. This is only my second journey with Decius and his wife Julia, and I regret that I have not followed their fictional lives in a turbulent Rome and her empire more. The history is spot on, the characters are well developed and lifelike, and the plot is captivating. There are more than a few detective novels set in Roman times on the book shelves. Decius should not be missed.