Dorothy's Reviews > SPQR XII: Oracle of the Dead

SPQR XII by John Maddox Roberts
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Jan 26, 09

bookshelves: ancient-roman-mysteries
Read in January, 2009

I have followed Decius Caecilius Metellus, scion of the powerful Metellii, from his earliest career until this entry in his saga. He is now middle-aged and serving as Rome's praetor peregrinus, the magistrate who administers justice for foreigners. His career has evolved during the time of the end of the Republic. From his privileged vantage point, he has watched and participated in the machinations of many of the great and would-be-great. He knows them all and he tells us what he knows as he writes his memoirs, now in advanced years and long past the passions and interests that drove him as a young man.

This latest entry takes place (although he didn't know it then) in the last year of the Republic. Julius Caesar (the uncle of Decius' beloved wife Julia) will soon cross the Rubicon and engage the Senate and Pompey and Rome will never be the same.

All that is a backdrop to Decius' stay in Campania where he is hearing cases and dispensing justice. He visits a shrine of the goddess Hecate and consults her Oracle. But the consultation is interrupted by the discovery of a dead body. A priest of the great god, Apollo, whose shrine is also nearby. Soon all the other priests of that shrine are found dead and others are dropping like flies as well. An attempt in made on Decius' life. Now things are getting serious.

In the end, of course, our praetor sorts it all out and Roman justice is preserved yet again. Now, Decius thinks a trip to Sicilia might be just the ticket. It might just keep him out of the looming civil war.

John Maddox Roberts writes engagingly of the Roman Empire. He brings the historical figures of that time to us as real people, not just words on a page. His books are meticulously researched and he has a point of view which guides the action. His main man, Decius, is a likable sort with human flaws that are frequently pointed out by the acerbic, but loving, Julia.

This has been a very entertaining series throughout and, although this is not my favorite entry, the quality has not diminished.
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