With The Lock, the author completes a series of three related novels with overlapping chronologies, covering the years from 62-48 B.C. The subtitles suggest Cicero, Catullus and Caesar are the respective main subjects, but the action is often dominated by the brother and sister act so central to Roman history and fiction, Publius Clodius Pulcher and his sister Clodia, or Lesbia in the poems of Catullus. The reader sees most of the novel through the eyes of Marcus Caelius Rufus, student of Cicero, sometimes lover of Clodia, and relative of Catullus.
In Rome, politics was always personal, and never more than in the late Republic when attacks by street gangs and murder by ambush were part of the process. Prosecutions for real and invented crimes move the plot, with the actual speeches and letters of Cicero providing background in some cases and incorporated into the text in others.
Cicero’s fight to save the Republic makes him the hero of this installment, but he is a hero with a tragic–or should we say comic–flaw. He can’t resist a good joke, even if it means accusing the vengeful Clodius of incest or tweaking the pompous Pompey. Still, the reader has to take Cicero’s side over that of the bullies who killed his dog and beat his brother. Like Colleen McCullough on the opposite side of the Roman political fence, Jaro re-creates the struggles of the Republic as it enters its death throes. Jaro’s series is somewhat less ambitious, but she succeeds in producing an authentic and imaginative perspective on well-known events.