Pros: Very short concise book; characterization, plot, setting, are all strong.
Cons: Very short. The ending was a little off.
The Bottom Line:
Best book in the nine book SPQR series (at the time of review, 9 book series). Very quick read, very enjoyable dip into this time period. Historical/Murder/Mystery.
This book is the ninth book in the SPQR series. The SPQR murder mystery series follows the career of Decius Caecilius Metellus during the last days of the Roman Republic (this particular book occurs in 50 B.C., or as Roberts notes at the end of the book: the 703rd year of the city of Rome). The Metellus family are a prominent family, though on the decline.
The SPQR series and the Gordianus the Finder series (by Steven Saylor) both occur at roughly the same time period in history, so comparisons between the two are common. The SPQR series, as mentioned, follows a relatively a youngish man from a well-placed family, while the Gordianus the Finder series follows a much older man from the lower classes of society. Both men solve murder mysteries, and both, on occasion, meet up with historical characters. For instance, both Decius and Gordianus run into Cleopatra in their most recent novels (at the time review written). Saylor's book (The Judgment of Caesar) though, deals with an old man returning his ailing wife to her homeland, in an attempt to restore her health (and occurs in 43 BC, mostly in Egypt). Roberts book, on the other hand, deals with a younger man still trying to climb the political ladder, and meets up with Cleopatra before she is Queen (in roughly 50 BC), and before the Caesar-Pompey civil war (which is in the final stages in Saylor's book). Also, unlike Gordianus, who is married to an ex-slave (his own), Decius is married to the niece of Julius Caesar.
I was surprised to find out that I ended up rating Robert's book slightly higher than Saylor's 10th Gordianus book. I wasn't surprised, though, to find that I had rated this Roberts book as the highest rating of all the books in the SPQR series. On the whole, Saylor's series is better, but Roberts series is still a very enjoyable read.
Roberts book is about a youngish Senator on the rise in the 703rd year of the city of Rome (officially, the city of Rome was founded in 753 BC, take away 703 years, and you get 50 BC) who, after serving for two years as an aedile, is tasked by his family (actually by the Senate, the family has already set aside its resources to elect candidates and cannot, yet, push Decius up to the next position of power) to go off to fight the pirates springing up in the Eastern Mediterranean. Roberts book is very well-written, gripping from beginning to a weak ending. While not the best book Roberts has written, in my opinion, it is the best book in the series. Robert's book, for the most part, is tightly written, needing just 188 pages (the rest is a glossary) to tell a very good story. The characters are, for the most part, fully formed personalities. The plot is strong. I gave Robert's book 4.39 stars out of five.