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SPQR I: The King's Gambit (SPQR, #1)
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SPQR I: The King's Gambit (SPQR #1)

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  1,212 ratings  ·  84 reviews
In this Edgar Award nominated mystery, John Maddox Roberts takes readers back to a Rome filled with violence and evil. Vicious gangs ruled the streets of Crassus and Pompey, routinely preying on plebeian and patrician alike. So the garroting of a lowly ex-slave and the disembowelment of a foreign merchant in the dangerous Subura district seemed of little consequence to the ...more
Paperback, 274 pages
Published August 24th 2001 by Minotaur Books (first published 1990)
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Georgina Ortiz
I read this book while taking a break from Steven Saylor's Roma Sub Rosa series. Because I only had two Roma Sub Rosa books left to read, I was scouting for another series set in Ancient Rome (can't get enough of this genre). I saw Roberts' SPQR while surfing the Net, bought the first book in the series, and read it after finishing Saylor's A Mist of Prophecies.

I wasn't disappointed.

While the Roma Sub Rosa series can be described as fast-paced (I practically gobbled up every exhilarating book in
Kathy Davie
First in the SPQR historical mystery series revolving around Decius Caecilius Metellus and his interest in snooping, LOL.

My Take
Roberts is using a first-person narration, and it's odd to hear him tell us what's happening now AND of various characters' futures at the same time. Useful, but odd. It does, however, contribute to my feeling of being hit over the head. As though I'm not bright enough to pick up on the clues.

That bit when Roberts introduces the forensics aspect of it with Asklepiodes a
Dana Stabenow
You must understand, whoever you are, that in those days Rome, mistress of half the world, was a place as savage as a village of Nile pygmies.

Thus providing employment for our narrator, one Decius Caecilius Metellus, young commander of what passes for local law enforcement in his district of the city of the seven hills, circa 70BC. As John Maddox Roberts’ The King’s Gambit begins, someone is committing arson and garroting manumitted gladiators and rich freedman in Rome. In a plot that moves fro
Feb 19, 2013 Ken rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: mystery
The following is about the series as a whole, to most of which I give 5 stars. I actually liked the later ones better than this one, the first, which was certainly good.

I'm an amateur Latinist with scholarly training, and have long had a particular interest in the late Roman Republic, the period of this series. I'm astonished at how well Roberts gets into the minds of the Romans, into the details of their lives, into events and the politics and other factors behind those events. I find them much
Jean Poulos
I have read a few books on ancient Rome recently and came across this Edgar nominated mysteries by John Maddox Roberts. He is a new author to me but I understand he is a well known Sci-Fi writer. The book takes place in about 70 B.C.E. and follows Decius Caecilius Metellus the younger, who is a patrician and former soldier how is now a low ranking official in the commission of Twenty Six (sort of policeman). The garroting of a manumitted gladiator, a foreign merchant and a wealthy freedman all i ...more
I like this whole SPQR series. Not only has it done better than most nonfiction books at making the politics and way of life of the late Roman Republic comprehensible, but they're very well-plotted and interesting mysteries, and Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger is a very believable investigator.
Confession first: I listened to this on audio, and whether it was author's narrative or the audio's narrator, I could not stay awake. Dustin had to keep catching me up.

So I really can't say much about the quality of the mystery part of the story. I was pretty confused about that for most of the read. However, the excellent way Roberts depicted life in the last years of Rome's (in)famous Republic were well worth sticking it out for. I liked how he characterized the players, giving them humanity
A detective story in the antique city of Rome is refreshing in contrast to the usual mainstream settings. Unfortunately there are some problems for me. I had serious issues following the story, because of all the different Roman names and places. Despite the fact that the author tries to explain some quite interesting historical facts, I often was unable to comprehend who is who. The names all sounded the same to me and even though the author rapped up the situation several times, I could not fo ...more
My full review:

Unlike Marcus Didius Falco, the hero of Lindsey Davis’ series, the leading character of the SPQR series is from a wealthy and influential family. Although the Metelli are not one of the founding, Patrician, families, they have almost as much power in Rome. At this time, about 70 BCE, the Republic is plagued by the political aspirations of such characters as Pompey the Great and Crassus, reputedly the wealthiest man in the whole Roman world.
Italo Italophiles
I've read the first book in the series, but had to go slow to take in all the Roman terms and concepts, not to mention the political institutions. The author explains all you need to know, and even includes a Glossary and maps, but the names and concepts take some getting used to, if it is all new to you.

Decius is a born investigator who works his way up the Roman civil-service during the last years of the Roman Republic. The writing is not pompous or pretentious. It is spare and direct. The au
The first book in a brilliant Ancient Rome series, in which Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger, a young nobleman, investigates 3 suspicious death occuring over a few days in the Subura, the part of the city he's in charge of.
First dies a freed gladiator. Next, a foreign wine seller with suspicious ties and then the richest freedman in the city.
Although the higher-ups tell him to leave it be, his sense of duty is higher than that of self preservation.
He asks questions, associates with figures
geschrieben von John Maddox Roberts und gelesen von Erich Räuker.

Der Krimi im alten Rom spielt in einem ähnlich gut recherchierten Umfeld, wie Alberto Angela’s “Ein Tag im alten Rom”. imageWahrscheinlich verwenden beide Autoren dieselben Quellen und beschreiben das alte Rom entweder beide gleich richtig oder falsch. Schön, dass es wenigstens keine offensichtlichen Widersprüche gibt.

Auffällig ist, dass sich die gesellschaftlichen Strukturen bis heute nur unwesentlich geändert haben. Mafiaähnliche
Joyce Lagow
Decius Caecilius Mettelus the Younger, the scion of the Elder of the same name,is a member of one of the lesser branches of this very old Roman noble family he lives, works, plays and does his best to stay alive in the Rome of the late Republic, when Pompey, Cicero, and Crassus were at the height of their power and influence, and the patrician Gaeus Julius Caesar was an ambitious, up-and-coming politician. At the moment, Decius is the captain of the vigiles who, at that time, functioned as firem ...more
Just read the first two in this series recently. Not mind-blowing, but a lot of fun if you're in the mood for what is essentially your classic detective story mashed up with a little ancient Roman history. Honestly couldn't tell you exactly how accurate it's portrayal of Rome at the time is, but it's convincing and survived some occasional Googling. I do like this sort of immersive approach to learning about a time and place I eventually intend to do some real research into.

In the King's Gambit,
Mr. Matt
Three stars bordering on three and a half. The book follows Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger, a minor civic official in ancient (pre-Imperial) Rome charged with investigating crimes. In this book he stumbles across a very deep conspiracy that seeks to undermine a Roman general in the field.

The book does a great job at placing the reader in a living, breathing city. It really immerses you. It was a nice diversion from the traditional "military" historical fiction that I've been reading - sto
Julian King
This is quite an enjoyable romp through Rome of the Late Republic in the company of our hero, Decius Caecilius Metellus. He’s a junior magistrate, put in the position of investigating officer (as it were) when a couple of murders, an arson attack and a break-in trace a line to conspiracy and treason.

Metellus is a less engaging character than Steven Saylor’s Gordianus, but it’s early days yet; furthermore, his status as a young career politian in the early stages of his own progression along the
Shannon Appelcline
This is a set of mysteries taking place in ancient Rome. The first one is set in "year 684 of the City of Rome", which I think makes it 70BC, or about 15 years before the events of the Rome TV show.

The mystery itself is very complex, involving political machinations and many powerful folks in Rome. I'm not sure if that's going to be par for the course, or if we're going to get smaller mysteries as well. I kinda' hope the latter.

I adore the fact that Roberts freely plays with many historical pers
In the first of a six-book series set in Caesar-era Rome, a young commissioner named Decius Caecilius Metellus is charged with solving three murders that have occurred one after another within his district. What he finds is a deep-rooted conspiracy that has its roots at the highest levels of Roman government and they are none too willing to let the truth be known. While the story is quite interesting and Roberts attempts, to the best of his ability, to convey some of the history of ancient Roman ...more
A man has been found murdered, and it is up to Decius Caecilius Mettelus the Younger, commander of the local vigiles to figure out who did the deed. As the bodies begin to pile up, Decius begins to realize that there is a lot more going on here than simple gang murders or robberies gone bad. But the he begins to come under pressure from the powerful in Rome to sweep the murders under the rug, something he just can't do. This places more than future career in jeopardy and Decius realizes he needs ...more
Samuel Valentino
A fun book, although I have to admit I was wondering what, and why, things were happening through most of it. The ending, however, wrapped it all up nicely, so it wasn't what I was afraid it would turn out to be. The first person narrator has a good voice as well.

The most enjoyable part was the perspective. It's written as if by an old man living in the Augustan age, looking back when he was younger, back when Julius Caesar was just an up-and-coming politician. Some, but not a terribly lot, of h
Actually pretty historically accurate, which kind of suprised me. A pretty enjoyable read, although I did find the repeated statements of future events annoying. The narrator is obviously telling the tale from the position of decades later, but repeatedly mentioning what later happens to characters in the story is irritating. I already know what is going to happen to the famous ones and stating what such-and-such will happen to a minor figure years later is kind of disruptive in a mystery with a ...more
Randall Orndorff
This whole series is great "popcorn" reading with a lot of Roman history and culture from the perspective of the patrician class. In comparison with the Gordianus the Finder series, Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger is much more typical for the times and demonstrates the same sort of odd prejudices that the "average" Roman might. On the flip side, I find his depictions of women to largely be pretty shallow, with the exceptions of a few characters that show up later in the series, and he tend ...more
What I enjoyed most about this book was the wonderful, historically accurate picture of life in ancient Rome, before the Caesars. I had to look up several terms that I'd never heard before! It wasn't as much of a mystery as I would have liked, but it's the first in a series that I think will probably only get better.
The King's Gambit, John Maddox Roberts, B+
Rome, 89 BCE
First line: I received te captain of the ward vigiles in my atrium, as I had on every
morning since my election to the Commission of Twenty-Six.
Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger is beginning his political career overseeing the
vigiles of the Subura district. So to him come the reports of two murders and an arson.
In investigating these crimes, Decius realizes those in the highest ranks of power are
tied to the deaths of freedmen and a
In essence, an historical murder mystery. Corruption, murder, arson, sex, and politics abound. Highly worthy listen, and I'll be picking up the next audiobook.

There were times when I was putting things together a lot faster than the main character, but in its own way, that was acceptable. I will confess to shouting at my phone while it was happening, however. :)
This is the first book in the SPQR series written by sci-fi and fantasy author John Maddox Roberts featuring Decius Caecilius Metellus vigile commander in Republican Rome.Having read many novels about Rome I was interested to see how Roberts portrayed Decius.Initially he felt quite flat but soon got into his stride,getting into scrapes and meeting dubious characters all over town and I did like him by the end. I felt that Roberts cleverly wove historical facts throughout the novel which provided ...more
A great novel rich in historical detail about Rome, especially the complexities of politics and how people rose to power. And we have a murder mystery. Many people are murdered at this time in Rome, buy it only matters to the authorities if it is someone of social significance. We also learn a lot about daily life in Rome, crime, street thugs, meals, customs, slavery. It wasn't always safe to go out in the streets at night despite the tight control of the Roman legions. This is the first in a se ...more
Chris Johnson
It was a lot of fun, if somewhat formulaic.

This isn't a problem really. I find with many detective novels you care as much about the setting and character as you do about the actual mystery. Decius is a fun character and Rome is just amazing.

The 'mystery' is pretty easy to figure out within the first few chapters, and some of the historical instructions could be wordy and lengthy if that's not what one is looking for.

However, if you like history then you'll enjoy those explanations of Roman cul
(2.7) Having read all the Gordianus mysteries set in Rome amongst the Caesar's, Pompeys, and Sullas, I decided to try Roberts take on the same era. Decellus is a minor aristocrat charged w/keeping the peace in the Subaru, one of Rome's less reputable areas. Murders ensue and duty calls and Roman customs are embraced and batted away as the danger circles ever closer to our protagonist. Initially, I was less than enthused as the story unfolded and the novel seemed a blanched version of Saylor's mo ...more
Not really into historical fiction, but this was good. I expect to read the rest of the series.
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Falco or Decius? 5 22 Aug 29, 2013 06:47PM  
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aka Mark Ramsay

John Maddox Roberts is the author of numerous works of science fiction and fantasy, in addition to his successful historical SPQR mystery series. The first two books in the series have recently been re-released in trade paperback. He lives in New Mexico with his wife.
More about John Maddox Roberts...
SPQR II: The Catiline Conspiracy (SPQR, #2) SPQR III: The Sacrilege (SPQR, #3) SPQR V: Saturnalia (SPQR, #5) SPQR IV: The Temple of the Muses (SPQR, #4) SPQR VI: Nobody Loves a Centurion (SPQR, #6)

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