The Slave-Girl From Jerusalem

Written by Caroline Lawrence
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley Rachel Beggs (aged 12)

AD 80. In this, the thirteenth Roman Mystery, the four friends, Flavia, Nubia, Jonathan and Lupus are in the port of Ostia. Jonathan’s sister Miriam is desperately worried about her friend Hephzibah, who has a tragic history. As a child, she survived the Roman destruction of Masada and became a slave to the wealthy Dives. He later freed her, but died soon afterwards, and she has no proof that she is a freewoman. Worse, she is accused of a triple murder and thrown into prison. Unless the four friends can find proof of her manumission and discover the true murderer, Hephzibah faces not only torture, but a horrible death by crucifixion.

The four children need a highly trained orator, but who will take on the unpopular task of defending a Jewish ex-slave? The only possible person is a young friend, Flaccus, whose first case it is. Flaccus swiftly realizes that someone is intent on corrupting the trial, not only by bribery, but also by defaming the characters of Hephzibah and the four friends. Will Flaccus be able to rise above his inexperience?

I enjoyed this book. The main theme is how the Roman justice system operated—a subject which could be as dry as dust—but the author brings it vividly to life and has us on the edges of our seats. This book would make a useful introduction to a discussion of what Justice is. The status of slaves is also important—if Nubia (whose status is also in doubt) is legally a slave, she would be automatically tortured if questioned about a crime. In the subplot, there is sadness as well as joy for Jonathan and Hephzibah. Lastly, there is an interesting look at the emergence of the early Christian church.

Recommended for 10 plus. (EH)


This book is full of mystery, and adventure with a hint of romance—a perfect combination. It was easy to read because it had a very interesting plotline. I was anxious to find out what would happen to Hephzibah. The new characters were described well, but if you haven’t read the previous books in the series you might not be able to get a good picture of what the older characters are like.

I am only going to make two criticisms. Firstly it refers to earlier books, some of which I haven’t yet read, so it was a bit confusing. Secondly, the names of some of the characters are very long and then she shortens them, so it was difficult to keep up.

On the whole I thought the book was very good. I think both boys and girls would enjoy it. The age range is from 10to 13 years. (RB)