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Catilina's Riddle (Roma Sub Rosa #3)

4.08  ·  Rating Details ·  2,808 Ratings  ·  110 Reviews
Using scholarly, historical insight, and evocative storytelling that brings to life the glories of ancient Rome, Steven Saylor takes the reader from the bloody lines of clashing Roman armies to the backrooms of the Senate floor, where power-hungry politicians wrestle the Fates for control of Rome's destiny.

With the consular election drawing near, Rome is fiercely divided
Paperback, 496 pages
Published February 18th 2002 by Minotaur Books (first published 1993)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Shawn Thrasher
Mar 27, 2011 Shawn Thrasher rated it it was amazing
This fourth in the Roma Sub Rosa series is nominally a murder mystery, but it's one of the best pieces of historical fiction I think I've ever read. It's certainly the best so far in this series. As Catalina and Cicero scheme and plot against one another in ancient Rome, they both use Gordianus the Finder - now uncomfortably retired - as a pawn in their political games. A murder mystery also hangs over Gordianus as well - why do headless corpses keep appearing on his country farm? Saylor paints ...more
Inês Beato
Steven Saylor é um profundo conhecedor da Roma Antiga e um exímio contador de histórias. Para quem, como eu, escolhe os seus livros pela vertente histórica, “O enigma de Catilina” foi certamente um deleite. No entanto, acredito que tenha sido uma desilusão para quem o tiver escolhido pela apregoada parte policial e de suspense, já que nesta obra essa vertente foi muito menos explorada que nos anteriores. Foi, pelo contrário, uma viagem muito mais “teórica” pelos meandros do Império Romano, numa ...more

Here's the thing. If you're reading something that purports to be a mystery, then you want it to be a bit mysterious. Historical crime fiction that's all history and not much crime makes for a fairly dull read. Saylor is a competent historian who knows all about Ancient Rome and writes decent prose. However, while I learned something about Catilina and Cicero by reading this novel, I didn't care very much about either the real historical figures or the fictional characters.

It was good to share
Aug 23, 2014 Tita rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: meus, livros-2014
Este é o terceiro livro da saga Roma Sub-Rosa de Steven Saylor, um género de policial histórico que me agrada bastante. No entanto, achei este livro um bocadinho mais maçudo do que os dois anteriores.
Desta vez encontramos Gordiano retirado numa quinta que herdou de um amigo mas claro está, não tem direito ao sossego que pretendia. Além de um pedido de Cícero para oferecer a casa a Catilina, quando este pretenda, também aparece um corpo sem cabeça, após este pedido. Estará esta crime relacionado
Jun 01, 2012 Heidi rated it really liked it
I accidentally read this one before Arms of Nemesis, but thankfully the stories don't follow each other so closely that I was confused reading book #3 without having read #2. I love Stephen Saylor's Roma Sub Rosa books for the completely opposite reason that I love the Brother Cafael mysteries. Brother Cadfael books are a light, fun mystery with just enough of a solid historical setting to make them really interesting to me but never enough history to slow down the story. The Roma Sub Rosa books ...more
John Carter McKnight
Oct 04, 2015 John Carter McKnight rated it it was amazing
Saylor's first Roma Sub Rosa novel was a loving portrait of ancient Rome wrapped in a mystery plot. The second was more a conventional work of genre fiction. His third does away with mystery-novel conventions almost entirely, to deliver a sprawling picture of rural life along with a deeply challenging and intriguing character study of a figure from Roman history portrayed as a cardboard villain by his successful political opponents.

Catalina's Riddle takes the nature of the reformist politician
Leider hat dieser Krimi aus dem alten Rom meine Erwartungen nicht erfüllt. Ich war sogar kurz davor, ihn nicht zu beenden, weil die ersten 2/3 des Buches enttäuschend ereignislos waren.
Der eigentliche Krimi spielt auf einer Farm in Etrurien (nicht in Rom - eine erste Enttäuschung), die Gordianus, ehemaliger Privatdetektiv, inzwischen bewirtschaftet. Die Handlung dieses "Provinzkrimis" ist extrem dünn und vorhersehbar. Außer dem Fund einer kopflosen Leiche passiert lange Zeit überhaupt nichts, Go
Nov 07, 2007 Seth rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people interested in roman history and culture; fans of Gordianus the character
Shelves: mystery
This is the longest, densest, and oddest of the Roma Sub Rosa series. It contains relatively little dialog, much introspection on the nature of Roman politics and Roman virtue, detailed accounts of the processes of Roman government and legal life (voting, debate in the senate, the extremely detailed and obscure campaign laws, coming-of-age ceremonies, process and applications of augury, etc.), and Hamlet-like vaccilation over whether Gorianus, as pater familias is doing the right thing by his fa ...more
Jan 14, 2010 Trish rated it liked it
Rome during Cicero and Caesar's time...lot's of intrigue, waves of manipulating politics (is there any other kind), and a brief brutal battle scene. It was like being dropped into ancient Rome for a few months during a critical election time. The story follows one man and his family as they divide their time between the capital and their farm in the suburbs, both of which provide the setting for conspiracy and murder as "Catilina" vies for a top Senate position. It was an interesting look at a s ...more
May 15, 2016 Kelvin rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016, adult, school
Of all the books for which I had not choice but to read in school, this has been one of the most enjoyable. TBH, it's probably because it is story (plot) based and easy to understand yet captivating to in its language. I've been translating Cicero's orations against Cataline (interestingly enough, a modern spelling of Catalina!) and from that, he sounds like a horrible person. What this book does is totally flip this perception around; Cataline is painted as misunderstood and Cicero is not as gl ...more
Oct 10, 2014 Mark rated it really liked it
I have just finished the audiobook Catilina's Riddle by Steven Saylor. It is a mostly good but sometimes pedantic look at the Catiline conspiracy during the pivotal year 63 BCE of the Roman Republic. The Catiline Conspiracy for those familiar with ancient Roman history was notable for the consulship of Cicero wherein he saved the Roman Republic from the evil attempt by the charismatic patrician, Catilina to destroy the republic. But in doing so, he set a precedent or maybe several precedents whi ...more

Not much of a mystery and I didn't come away with much understanding of Catilina's conspiracy. However, I did learn more than I cared to about Roman farming!

Thank you to my special book Santa!!

Buddy read with Kim :).
Feb 12, 2015 Nick rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As historical fiction: well researched and evocative.

As a mystery: insubstantial and easily guessable.

Unfortunately, I was reading it for the mystery side, which is better balanced in Saylor's other novels.
Fernando Delfim
Jun 22, 2015 Fernando Delfim rated it it was ok
“A calúnia é um estilo aceite em qualquer campanha eleitoral”

“para que serve tanto dinheiro numa campanha eleitoral, a não ser para subornar pessoas?”

Acho que com o tempo a colecção está a perder o fôlego. No entanto vale a pena lê-lo pelos diálogos e dialéticas entre Giordano e Catilina, onde este último chega quase a convencer o leitor das suas teses.

“- Os livros são como os amigos, não achas? Constantes, imutáveis, fiáveis. É reconfortante. Pegamos num livro que pusemos de lado há um ano, e a
Nov 28, 2014 Karen rated it really liked it
I didn't like book #2, Arms of Nemesis, as much as I liked the first, Roman Blood. Perhaps that was due to the very "isolated" feel of the mystery Gordianus was asked to solve in Baiae. In this book, Catilina's Riddle, Saylor returned to more of the "history", I felt. This book had a lot more character development, too, as Gordianus wrestled with his son Meto coming of age. I really enjoyed Catilina's Riddle and am excited for the next one in the series (though I am going to take a break for a w ...more
Mark McFaddyn
Jan 13, 2015 Mark McFaddyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is another in Steven Saylor's series of historical fiction which take place in ancient Rome. The "Finder" (investigator) Gordianus, has become tired of Roman corruption and lives on a farm in the countryside. He becomes embroiled in an election dispute between Cicero and Catilina, which is based on a an historical event known as the Catilina Conspiracy. Reluctantly agreeing to help the great orator Cicero, the story takes on elements of mystery when a headless corpse is discovered on Gordia ...more
Jun 17, 2009 Eric_W rated it really liked it
Gordianus calls himself the Finder. We would call him a gumsandal. He helps politicians uncover scandal about their opponents; he helps advocates collect evidence of an enemy's crimes, but he is discouraged that he seems no longer able to serve truth and justice. Rome has become a city of corruption and evil. Fortunately, he has inherited a lovely farm in the country with an adequate supply of slaves to run it.

Such is the setting for Catalina's Riddle. Gordianus has forsaken Rome with its corru
Aug 11, 2012 Spotsalots added it
Shelves: fiction, mystery
It's gratifying that the Sub Rosa series holds up so well. This may be in part due to the books being set in ancient Rome; I imagine it will be some decades before we envision the late Republic differently enough that the series seems really dated, although at some point I suppose that some of the emphases will begin to look very late-20th-century. In any case, this particular book deals with the infamous Catilina, whose role in history was written up by his enemies and is thus somewhat suspect. ...more
Feb 05, 2012 Ensiform rated it really liked it
Gordianus, now living on a farm outside Rome with his large family and sick of the politics of the city, is coerced back into service by Cicero. He must play host to the title character, Catilina, a charming senator who is supposed to be plotting the overthrow of the Optimates who control Rome. Gordianus is reluctant, but agrees when a corpse appears on his farm: is it Cicero or Catilina pressuring him, or one of his neighbors who wants him gone?

In this third book, Saylor has given me what I wan
Mar 20, 2013 Lianne added it
Well, I'm hooked now on these Roman mysteries thanks to a friend who has the whole set and is feeding them to me as fast as I can finish them. This title is #3 in the series featuring Gordianus the Finder. This ambitious book of 500 pages, the fattest so far is packed with period detail but never gets boring. Gordianus has inherited a country estate from a friend and thinks he has escaped the politics and intrigue of Rome. Cicero is consul and charismatic sensational Catilina is his rival. Inter ...more
Simon Mcleish
May 26, 2012 Simon Mcleish rated it really liked it
Originally published on my blog here in November 1999.

The third novel in Saylor's series about Gordianus the Finder - a series also including several short stories - tells of one of the most famous events of the last years of the Roman Republic, the Catiline Conspiracy. Now well into middle age, Gordianus has retired to a farm north of Rome, inherited from a friend in the teeth of opposition from the friend's family, who own all the farms surrounding Gordianus' new one.

Gordianus rejoices in leav
Miranda Starmz
Oct 15, 2011 Miranda Starmz rated it really liked it
Catilina's Riddle is the third book in the Sub Rosa series, although I picked it up without any notion whatsoever of events that had occurred before, for I had started this book on a mere whim. I abandoned it once a few pages in, but then, since my choices of books were limited [ not to mention that it had me very slightly intrigued and that I was determined not to start any other books as long as I had yet to finish the one I was currently reading ], I chose to pick it up once more and start re ...more
Nov 15, 2013 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So, Catilina's Riddle, the third full novel by Steven Saylor about Gordianus the Finder, the investigator living at the end of the Roman Republic. Not a straight-out mystery where Gordianus is hired to solve a mystery, rather in this one, the mystery comes to him.

This book takes place through the year of 63 BC, the year of Cicero's term as Consul, and the Catiline Conspiracy in Rome to take down Cicero and the Optimates (the Best People, or patricians). A slow start on the book dealt more with t
Kathy Davie
Aug 13, 2013 Kathy Davie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, history
Third in the Roma Sub Rosa ancient Rome historical mystery series revolving around Gordianus the Finder. It's seventeen years since Roman Blood , 1.

My Take
I have to confess this one was tedious, and I kept putting it down. Although, I did love the sound of his farm and the baths...and Gordianus' library...lovely...

Saylor educates us on the mechanics of campaigning and politics in Rome. And, yes, there's graffiti to protest one candidate or another. It seems the primary purpose of being elected
Nov 07, 2010 Peter rated it liked it
I should mention that I'm reasonably familiar with the history of the last century before the end of the republic and thus approached this book knowing much about how the story played out. As a result, I was looking for a good mystery set against this familiar background.

Unfortunately, that is not what this book is about. Despite its name and the series it belongs to, Catilina's Riddle is a recounting of the "Catilina Controversy", contriving to put the protagonist in as many important situatio
Jun 29, 2012 Trish rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The third book about Gordianus the Finder ... This time it is about the famous Catilina - whom some regard as a conspirator, others as a victim and others even as a monster.
In this book, the main character (Gordianus) takes a side but the author makes sure that there are plenty of other views expressed as well so as to enable the reader to make up his/her own mind.
Again, Steven Saylor has done a splendid job in making Ancient Rome come to life. There have been quite some chapters in which the co
Apr 28, 2012 Mike rated it really liked it
Another solid read in the Roma Sub Rosa series by Steven Saylor. This book tells the story of the rebellion of Catilina during the age of Cicero. Like the first two books in the series, this one involved Gordianus the Finder and a mystery involving dead people. The difference from previous books is that the mystery is sort of the story created to tell the real story of Catilina's rebellion. Must of the middle part of the book is speeches given by Cicero and by Catilina, and Saylor explains in hi ...more
Oct 30, 2014 Argum rated it liked it
First I think this book was too long. Not sure what I would cut, but it dragged in places. I read in a day, but still had trouble remembering what little things happened in the beginning. That said I enjoyed both parts of the book the story of Catalina and the mystery of headless corpses on the farm. I am reading the next now, but not sure how much further I am going to go, maybe a new time period will be a good change of pace. Overall, just really heavy tone.
Mar 23, 2014 Kenny rated it liked it
I liked this one. Another series I've jumped about with, but good. Gordianus is an interesting protagonist the rural farm setting we'll described, as also I really enjoyed the coming of age ceremony. Caitilina is unusually treated more sympathetically than in many histories, but that still didn't quite justify gordianus's actions to me. It lost a bit of plausibility there, but remains fun.
Must try them in order...
Apr 14, 2010 Djrmel rated it liked it
The mystery portion of the book drags through every stage of its plotting, but as historical fiction, this is the best yet of this series. This is no doubt because of the change of setting: Gordianus has inherited a farm, introducing himself and the reader to a whole new aspect of life in ancient Rome (of course, it's not ancient Rome in the books). Also, the changes in his domestic situations with added family members provide another way for Saylor to reveal what it was to live in as not only a ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Missing page count for B005QMUT80 13 32 Nov 18, 2013 11:58PM  
  • Time to Depart (Marcus Didius Falco, #7)
  • SPQR II: The Catiline Conspiracy (SPQR, #2)
Steven Saylor is the author of the long running Roma Sub Rosa series featuring Gordianus the Finder, as well as the New York Times bestselling novel, Roma and its follow-up, Empire. He has appeared as an on-air expert on Roman history and life on The History Channel.

Saylor was born in Texas and graduated with high honors from The University of Texas at Austin, where he studied history and class
More about Steven Saylor...

Other Books in the Series

Roma Sub Rosa (1 - 10 of 12 books)
  • Roman Blood (Roma Sub Rosa, #1)
  • Arms of Nemesis (Roma Sub Rosa, #2)
  • The Venus Throw (Roma Sub Rosa, #4)
  • A Murder on the Appian Way (Roma Sub Rosa, #5)
  • The House of the Vestals (Roma Sub Rosa, #6)
  • Rubicon (Roma Sub Rosa, #7)
  • Last Seen in Massilia (Roma Sub Rosa, #8)
  • A Mist of Prophecies (Roma Sub Rosa, #9)
  • The Judgment of Caesar (Roma Sub Rosa, #10)
  • A Gladiator Dies Only Once (Roma Sub Rosa, #11)

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