David's Reviews > The House of the Vestals

The House of the Vestals by Steven Saylor
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it was ok
bookshelves: ancient-world-fiction, fiction, read-2015, mystery

A collection of short stories may not have been the best way to experiment with this series. Perhaps Saylor does a better job when he has time to develop his mystery and his setting in a full-length book, but this collection of stories I found underwhelming.

Its setting in ancient Rome was my sole reason for buying The House of the Vestals, but I don't think the author succeeded in transporting me to this world. After all, the reason for telling a mystery in a different time period is the thrill of a foreign time and place and a set of possibilities that are not available in the present. Part of the thrill of Sherlock Holmes, for instance, is being in Victorian England with its carriages, street lamps, and cobble-stone streets. The House of the Vestals was interesting, but in a here-are-some-neat-things-about-Roman-times sort of way. There are some exceptions. I enjoyed the description of the Saturnalia, for instance, and felt a bit of its fun. I also liked the legendary story of an Egyptian king and his treasure room, as told by Bethesda. But on the whole, I wasn't drawn into Saylor's Rome.

Secondly, there's really not much to say about the detective Gordianus the Finder. He's not particularly insightful--moderately clever, I suppose; he doesn't have any endearing faults or eccentricities; and he's not funny. He's a good man, kind to those around him, but he's boring. Perhaps this is the worst fault by far.

Lastly, the mysteries themselves. Like Gordianus, they are under-developed. Many are predictable, some are fairly clever, but nothing knocked my socks off. Again, no doubt a fault of the format.

In summary, this book didn't deliver. It's not that it was poorly written or badly told. It just didn't pack much of a punch.

But again, it's not fair to judge a series by a book of short mysteries. I plan to revisit Roma Sub Rosa with a full-length mystery, perhaps Arms of Nemesis. Any suggestions?
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Reading Progress

March 17, 2015 – Started Reading
March 17, 2015 – Shelved
March 17, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
March 17, 2015 – Shelved as: ancient-world-fiction
March 17, 2015 – Shelved as: fiction
March 17, 2015 – Shelved as: read-2015
March 17, 2015 – Shelved as: mystery
March 22, 2015 – Finished Reading

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