Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “SPQR I: The King's Gambit (SPQR #1)” as Want to Read:
SPQR I: The King's Gambit (SPQR #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.78  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,759 Ratings  ·  140 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 September 1990)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Georgina Ortiz
Jan 19, 2012 Georgina Ortiz rated it really liked it
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
Dana Stabenow
Jun 01, 2016 Dana Stabenow rated it liked it
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 freedmen in Rome. In a plot that moves fro
Kathy Davie
May 23, 2013 Kathy Davie rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery, history
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
Maybe I wasn't in the right mood, or maybe it just wasn't very good... I don't know. I just didn't care much for it.
I'll stick to Marcus Didius Falco, he's a much more entertaining protagonist.
Jun 21, 2015 Susan rated it really liked it
The King's Gambit by John Maddox Roberts Set in the 1st century ancient Rome, this murder mystery will have you hooked and wanting more. In the time of Crassus and Pompey, murder and intrigue are not that uncommon. However, their is the dual murders of an ex-slave and a foreign merchant that catch the eye of Decius Caecilius Metellus. He isn’t willing to write these deaths off so quickly.
When I was younger, I read several of these SPQR books in paperback. I just couldn’t get enough of them. I wa
Feb 19, 2013 Ken rated it liked it
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
Mr. Matt
Dec 10, 2013 Mr. Matt rated it liked it
Shelves: hf-roman, hf-mystery, 2013
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
Apr 28, 2015 Krissy rated it liked it
**2015 Reading Challenge W/Josh: #29 A Book Set Somewhere You've Always Wanted To Visit**
Feb 17, 2016 Joyce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger, an old man who was once the scion of an old and storied Patrician family is dictating his autobiography. Decius has lived through one of the most turbulent times in all of history: the death throes of the Roman Republic and the birth of the Roman Empire.

As a young man, Decius began his climb up the political ladder as a member of the Commission of Twenty-six leading a nascent police/fire force. When he investigates an arson/murder, the clues lead him to th
Dec 09, 2014 Madeleine rated it really liked it
After a long month of essentially zero reading -- NaNoWriMo consumes all time -- this was a wonderful book into which to dive and restart my usual binge-reading habits.

It amazes me that it took me so long to discover this series. I think it's common knowledge by now my love of the classical, and given my years of study on the subject, this historical mystery series set during the tail-end of the Roman Republic is right up my alley.

Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger -- note: I'm fairly certain
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
Catherine Mayo
Dec 04, 2014 Catherine Mayo rated it liked it
John Maddox Roberts began his SPQR series, starring the astute and almost terminally curious Decius Caecilius Metellus, in 1990, ten years before Lindsey Davis wrote the bible on Roman detective stories with the first of her Falco series, The Silver Pigs.

Both Roberts and Davies steep their books in historical detail, Davies in Rome at the time of Vespasian, Roberts in the last stages of the Republic. Davies does this effortlessly, giving the reader a feast that never threatens to overwhelm or ov
Mar 21, 2016 Cee added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I'm not sure what to think because everytime I listen to this, I fall asleep! As an insomniac it's good to know. Also, audible recently revamped their app and now it doesn't seem to have bookmarks anymore. Instead it has a way to audio-clip. Which might be nice in some very specific instances. But I used the bookmark every time I listened to a book to surprise surprise, mark my place. Instead, now I have to keep going back to who knows where, because I fell asleep during the reading of the book ...more
Oct 21, 2010 Suzanne rated it really liked it
Shelves: from-the-library
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.
Oct 21, 2014 Laura rated it liked it
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
Mar 06, 2016 Faith rated it liked it
Shelves: audio
While I like period detail, there was too much of it in this book for me. I felt like the author wanted to show every bit of his research here. The book was entertaining though, and the narration of the audiobook was excellent. I'm willing to give the series another chance.
Dec 11, 2014 Tom rated it really liked it
Not a bad little tale, full of historical characters and a neat plot. Truthfully, a simple intellectual confection which can be recommended for a fine knot to be untangled by a memorable "detective".
A.F. Grappin
Jan 10, 2016 A.F. Grappin rated it really liked it
I liked this book, though it didn't grab me the way I thought it would. I was interested, and I liked the characters well enough (particularly Decius) but I never felt like I was fully drawn in. I always felt like an outsider looking in, which wasn't bad, really. But it wasn't the best way to consume a book. I never really got into the whole mystery reader deal, where I start trying to guess the murderer, either. The book led me along, and I followed, not dragging but not rushing forward, either ...more
Mar 20, 2015 Maddy rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-reads
PROTAGONIST: Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger
SETTING: 684 Rome
SERIES: #1 of 13
WHY: I didn't expect to like this book, as I am not normally a fan of historical fiction. However, Roberts gets it right. Decius is in a social class that gains him some respect but no power. He is the law enforcer for his district; and when several people are murdered, he is determined to find the culprit(s), even if they are among the more esteemed citizens of Rome in 684. Decius is a likeable lead ch
This was almost a 4* read. I liked that it was set in Rome and that the author explained so much about how Roman government worked. That was a definite plus. The mystery was good too. The protagonist had to figure out who was murdering people in his district. He showed real smarts when he involved a doctor who had studied the weapons that are used to kill and maim. I got this in an Audible sale and will be keeping my eyes open for the next in the series.

One comment about the narrator. I enjoyed
Aug 07, 2014 Daniel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
May 29, 2016 Brian rated it liked it
Very different in tone from Davis' Marcus Didius Falco mysteries, Robert's ancient Roman is a patrician in the final generation of the Republic. He pals about with Julius Caesar and butts-heads with Pompey and Crassus. The stories are, therefore, a bit more refined and show the twilight of a more civilized age. The politics of the high and mighty are front-and-center here. The plot doesn't feel quite so tight as Davis' mysteries, but it's still entertaining and fun to read, as well as a wonderfu ...more
Nov 24, 2015 Sara rated it really liked it
I read this book for the A Book A Day Keeps the Boredom at Bay challenge. 31 – Is the last day of the month. Read a book about last chances. Or read the final book of a series. You can also read a book about the end of a cycle or a new beginning. (I went out of order, I don't care!)

This was a fabulously immersive story set in the late Roman Republic. I love the setting so much. It's one of my favorite periods in Roman history, and this author really brought it to life with his little mystery. Mo
Set in the 1st century ancient Rome, this murder mystery will have you hooked and wanting more. In the time of Crassus and Pompey, murder and intrigue are not that uncommon. However, their is the dual murders of an ex-slave and a foreign merchant that catch the eye of Decius Caecilius Metellus. He isn’t willing to write these deaths off so quickly.

When I was younger, I read several of these SPQR books in paperback. I just couldn’t get enough of them. I was very delighted to find them in audio an
Feb 16, 2014 Sue CCCP rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 20, 2014 Italo Italophiles rated it really liked it
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
Jan 19, 2014 Marina rated it liked it
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
Apr 24, 2012 Joyce Lagow rated it really liked it
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
Nov 20, 2013 John rated it really liked it
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,
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Falco or Decius? 6 34 Dec 09, 2014 12:54PM  
  • Last Seen in Massilia (Roma Sub Rosa, #8)
  • Roman Games: A Plinius Secundus Mystery
  • Ovid (Marcus Corvinus, #1)
  • Persona Non Grata (Gaius Petreius Ruso, #3)
  • Alexandria (Marcus Didius Falco, #19)
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...

Other Books in the Series

SPQR (1 - 10 of 13 books)
  • SPQR II: The Catiline Conspiracy (SPQR, #2)
  • SPQR III: The Sacrilege (SPQR, #3)
  • SPQR IV: The Temple of the Muses (SPQR, #4)
  • SPQR V: Saturnalia (SPQR, #5)
  • SPQR VI: Nobody Loves a Centurion (SPQR, #6)
  • SPQR VII: The Tribune's Curse (SPQR, #7)
  • SPQR VIII: The River God's Vengeance (SPQR, #8)
  • SPQR IX: The Princess and the Pirates (SPQR, #9)
  • SPQR X: A Point of Law (SPQR, #10)
  • SPQR XI: Under Vesuvius (SPQR, #11)

Share This Book