Saturday, January 16, 2016
Book Review- SPQR 1- The King's Gambit by John Maddox Roberts
Decius Caecilius Metellus The Younger, young government lawkeeper in Rome, has just had a murder occur in his district. Life in Rome is dangerous, even in the glorius days of the Forum, but this is out of the norm. Decius uncovers corruption in the government-- aside from the usual bribery common to Romans-- and investigates, only to have two more murders occur right under his nose. That's not even counting the intrusion in his home, which resulted in his being attacked and robbed. Is Rome falling apart around him, and if so, is the government actually behind it?
That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from http://www.italian-mysteries.com/JMR01.html
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 Roman hierarchy. But Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger--high-born commander of the local vigiles -- was determined to investigate. Despite official apathy, brazen bribes and sinister threats, Decius uncovers a world of corruption at the highest levels of his government that threatens to destroy him and the government he serves.
This was unlike any murder mystery I've read before, largely due to the period it's set in. I haven't come across much fiction set in ancient Rome, and I was highly intrigued by how unusual it was for me. I love the period, and it shattered my usual ideas of what a murder mystery is. The culture is different and interesting, giving lots of little details to the crime that would not make it possible in another setting. It was brilliantly done.
Roberts's style didn't grab me, really. It didn't get in the way of the narrative, but I wasn't able to sink into it like I can with some other authors. It wasn't particularly good, bad, strong, weak, or anything, really. The prose didn't get in the way of the story by any means, but I don't feel like it was a great compliment, either. Roberts writes well, but it's not a style I would remark on to others.
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. It was highly interesting, but not a driving force. I'm in no rush to read the next book, but I think sometime in the future, I may pick it up out of curiosity. It's a comfortable sort of book, one to settle in with when you're looking for a mental stimulation but you have the time to relax.
Would I Recommend This Book? Sure! If you like a good mystery but want something out of the norm, this is definitely a book for you. If you're interested in the Roman Empire, this is great fiction for you. It was a far cry from what I normally read, but I enjoyed it. I give SPQR 1: The King's Gambit a patrician 4 of 5 stars.
For more on the author, visit http://www.italian-mysteries.com/JMRap.html