Read roman blood by Steven Saylor Online


Elena asks that you come to the House of Swans at once... Compelled by this message, the wealthy, sybaritic Sextus Roscius goes not to his harlot, but to his doom—savagely murdered by unknown assassins. In the unseasonable heat of a spring morning in 80 B.C., Gordianus the Finder is summoned to the house of Cicero, a young advocate staking his reputation on this case. TheElena asks that you come to the House of Swans at once... Compelled by this message, the wealthy, sybaritic Sextus Roscius goes not to his harlot, but to his doom—savagely murdered by unknown assassins. In the unseasonable heat of a spring morning in 80 B.C., Gordianus the Finder is summoned to the house of Cicero, a young advocate staking his reputation on this case. The charge is patricide; the motive, a son's greed. The punishment, rooted deep in Roman tradition, is horrific beyond imagining.Gordianus's investigation takes him through the city's raucous, pungent streets and deep into urban Umbria, unraveling layers of deceit, twisted passions, and murderous desperation. From pompous, rouged nobles to wily slaves to citizens of seemingly simple virtue, the case becomes a political nightmare. As the defense proceeds toward a devastating confrontation in the Forum, one man's fate may be threaten the very leaders of Rome itself....

Title : roman blood
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9216429
Format Type : Kindle Edition
Number of Pages : 404 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

roman blood Reviews

  • Richard
    2019-04-22 19:10

    7.5/10A great start to this Roman series which attacks on two levels, one being the atmosphere and culture of Ancient Rome and the other being a good old mystery. To rate the book on one of these levels solely would do a disservice, the mystery is playing somewhat second fiddle to the ambience for a large part of the book but then becomes the main driving force at the end.This is one of those where I wasn't expecting to read it but it was a group read for this month, it was on my (very large) wish list, and it cost the princely sum of £0.84 on the Kindle. It caught me off guard because of this; I was thrown straight into Ancient Rome with all these historical figures and their way of life and instantly donned my toga and joined in. This oozed atmosphere, every description added an extra level of realism to the time, the main character (Gordianus) I believe to be fictitious but the surrounding cast are all real historical figures. This brings us to the mystery element. It only hit me that this was Cicero's actual first trial in real life, and not just a little gimmick the author threw in. It plodded along to start with just simmering in the background and then things kicked off with Gordianus digging deeper and finding out the rhymes and reason much to the determent of his own wellbeing. Or so we think, there are many twists and turns here with quite a bit of intrigue and it all comes out in the wash in the end.So whilst a great start and I really enjoyed the setting and the style it was written, there were a few parts which went a little slow and the overall mystery wasn't massively interesting or shocking in the end. However, these minor quibbles aside, this was a great entry novel and I look forward to reading more in this series (I already own the next few in the series to crack on!).If you like this try: "The Gates of Rome” by Conn Iggulden

  • Kim
    2019-04-02 20:17

    Having not studied Latin or ancient history at school or university, my knowledge of the ancient world has come from reading Gore Vidal's Creation and Robert Harris' Imperium. Oh, and Asterix the Gaul and it's various sequels. I've also gleaned a bit from Shakespeare, although I've never been that keen on Shakespeare's histories, and while I've spent time looking at Roman ruins and ancient Roman and Greek sculptures in various places, that has not led to the acquisition of any knowledge about the history those things represent. All this means that I came to this particular novel - the first in a series set in ancient Rome and featuring Gordianus the Finder - with very little knowledge of the time in which it is set and with no particular expectations. The first factor put me at something of a a disadvantage. The second factor was probably a plus.Gordianus the Finder is a private detective of sorts*. He is engaged by the young Cicero to assist him in preparing the defence of Sextus Roscius, who has been accused of murdering his father. It is Cicero's first major case. The crime, the litigation and Cicero's defence of the accused are all factual, as is the political situation: specifically, the dictatorship of Sulla and the corruption of Chrysogonus, Sulla's former slave who in 82BC was placed in charge of proscriptions (that is, the identification and condemnation of enemies of the state). Saylor's imagination fills in the rest of the tale. About three quarters of the way through the novel there is a lengthy piece of exposition - okay, let's call it an awkward information dump - which covers Sulla's rise to the position of dictator. I found it reasonably interesting at the time - because it's a topic I know nothing about - but it did interrupt the plot. Not only that, but two pages further on I couldn't remember the details of the history lesson I'd only just been taught. That was the most significant weakness of the novel. Otherwise, it was a success. The narrative is interesting and while I guessed one of the twists in the plot, I didn't guess the final big twist. In addition, the characters are well-drawn and the portrayal of Cicero made me want to read some of his works (I had the same reaction when I read Imperium, but didn't do anything about it. This time I've downloaded an edition of his Selected Works).Overall, this was an enjoyable read, made the more enjoyable by reading it with my friends Jemidar and Hayes. I plan to read more of the series. This one gets 3-1/2 stars.*I find it hard not to think of Gordianus as a Private Roman Eye, which will only make sense to those who have seen or heard Wayne and Shuster's Rinse the Blood Off My Toga

  • Gretchen
    2019-04-04 21:08

    This is the best "starter book" I have read in a long time! Normally I find myself annoyed with books intended to start a series. There tends to be too much delving into the background of the lead characters. The actual story tends to get lost in various details about where things take place. My other problem, especially with historical series, is the amount of time spent detailing the specific time in which the story takes place. In the case of Roman Blood, we are introduced to Gordianus, told he is known as "The Finder", he lives in a house in inherited from his late father, and he's sort of in a relationship with (view spoiler)[ his house slave Bethesda(hide spoiler)]. That's about as far into Gordianus' story as we get. I like it. In my opinion, it leaves the door open for story lines in the following books. I have no idea what the story lines of the other books are but I have added the entire series to my tbr list. I'm excited to discover more about Gordianus. Before I go too much further into why I enjoyed this book, I should point out that I know very little about B.C. Rome. In fact, I know very little about most civilizations in existence during the B.C.E. That being said, Steven Saylor did an excellent job giving readers a crash course in Roman politics. Various conversations between characters throughout the course of the novel gave great insight into how things were in Rome. There was in conversation in particular between Gordianus and Tiro about why the Republic does not have a police force. The way in which the explanation was effortlessly weaved into the conversation between the two characters was fantastic. The background information given to the reader about Sulla and how he came to rule was also well-done. I thought it was a smart move by the author to place the explanation (which was a little dry reading but important to the story) towards the end of the book when Sulla was starting to play a larger role in the plot of story. In my opinion it made a lot of sense to put that information where the author did instead of taking the more conventional route and boring the reader with the detail at the onset of the novel. As far as the mystery itself, I was pleasantly surprised. (view spoiler)[ I did not believe Sextus to be guilty of murdering his father for most of the book. I believed it was a power move facilitated by Chrysogonus. I thought it was going to be one of those instances where everyone was out to get poor Sextus and his wealth of land. Imagine my surprise when it turns out the wealth of land was the primary objective but the whole thing was facilitated by Sextus and Chrysogonus came to be involved later. The tie in with Sulla's ex-wife was another element I didn't see coming.(hide spoiler)]I look forward to continuing on with this series. I am glad to have been introduced to it.

  • Hayes
    2019-04-02 20:11

    Quick re-read before reading number two in the series.-–--------------------------------The only flaw (for me, I mean) was the long history lesson about Sulla, which sent me to sleep--serves me right for reading in bed. Otherwise it kept me glued to the electronic pages.I missed the first twist--which is not surprising... I always miss the twist! And I fell for the red herring which followed--that too is not surprising. I have a great willingness to suspend disbelief when I read a mystery. All I care about is if the writing is good and if there are no glaring problems. This is, in fact, a well-written start to an interesting series that I will certainly continue.

  • Mr. Matt
    2019-04-17 23:15

    Sextus Roscius was a wealthy, degenerate old man murdered on his way to a brothel in the heart of Rome. The man accused of the crime is none other than Sextus Roscius' own son, Sextus Roscius the Younger. A young, ambitious Orator (i.e., lawyer/advocate) - none other than Marcus Tullius Cicero - is defending the young Roscius. Cicero retains Gordianus the finder (i.e., a private detective) to help solve a mystery. What follows next was one of the best mysteries I've read in some time.First, the mystery itself. Like any good mystery what looks like an open and shut case is anything but. Sextus Roscius the Younger clearly has motive. His father treats him poorly and is squandering the family fortune on food, drink, gambling and whores. But it also turns out that the Roscii have a long simmering feud with their cousins. And then there are the political feuds, the maneuvering, the jockeying, the struggle for advantage. (This doesn't even touch the Proscriptions, the culmination of Sulla's political purge against enemies of the state.) There is much more going on here than Gordinas (and the reader) suspects.The setting itself is fantastic. I read historical fiction because I like to gain insight and learn about distant lands and times. Roman Blood took me on a thrilling tour of Ancient Rome - from the slums of the Subura to the Forum to the seemingly peaceful countryside. I especially appreciated the time period of the story. Much of Roman historical fiction that I had read thus far seemed to focus on either Julius or Augustus. I suppose this makes sense - the transition from Republic to Empire provides ample opportunities for drama. Saylor focused his story on the period following the Social Wars (about 90 BCE). This provided some insight into Marius and Sulla and a period that I had only known about in the most general terms. I liked the new perspective. Saylor did a good job of bringing it to life. The world felt alive to me as Gordinas wandered through it.Finally, Gordinas himself was an excellent character. The story is told from his perspective and his interactions felt genuine to me. He made no exceptional leaps to the truth. Rather he gained his insights the hard way. He traveled the city. He visited the scene of the crime. He spoke to witnesses. He tried to intimidate a person or two. He followed false leads. He did exactly what I'd like to think a hard-boiled investigator would do back in the day. It didn't hurt that I actually liked the guy. He was good to his slave, Bethesda. He actually hired someone to protect her. And, at the very end he really does an extraordinary act of human decency that I really appreciated. What a great character.Four and a half stars rounded down to four. The book was missing something that would've popped it up to five. Not entirely sure why I feel that way. Maybe it needed another character? Maybe it dragged in a couple of places? No worries, it was still a fun book. I recommend to those who enjoy historical fiction and mysteries.

  • Alicja
    2019-04-14 00:23

    rating: 5.5/5I always hate writing reviews for mysteries because everything I say feels like a spoiler. So I'm keeping this one short and sweet, and couldn't possibly do justice to the awesomeness that is Gordianus and his brilliant sleuthing skills. 80 B.C. Rome. The famous Cicero (before he becomes famous, that is) hires Gordianus the Finder to solve a mystery and help him make history or, well, just help him finds facts for a client's defense. Taken from a real case, and a real defense by Cicero. And then of course we have the dictator Sulla, all life is living under the shadow of his rule...And ancient Rome is a city without a police force. A city of rich nobles and poor street urchins. It is as violent as beautiful and wondrous. And Saylor knows how to pull together the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and feel of the city, time, its people, culture, religion, and politics wrapped up in a mystery involving history's most intriguing characters. We get to interact with all levels of society as Saylor blurs the line between fact and fiction creating a world that just so real.And then he inserts little mute Eco that broke my heart and left me emotionally destroyed. Shattered. (view spoiler)[The scene where Eco described what he saw, how he told his mother what he saw, and what the thugs did to her... and his silent plea for justice was one of the most powerful (and heartbreaking) scenes I've read in a long time. (hide spoiler)]Saylor's understanding of ancient Rome as a living, breathing, multi-faceted city is at the same level as Renault's understanding of ancient Greece. A stunning page-turner filled with action, violence, suspense, and lots of ancient Roman goodness. Next please...

  • Pamela
    2019-04-01 23:11

    This is an engrossing mystery, set in the Rome of 80 BC, where the rather shady Gordianus the Finder investigates a case of murder on behalf of the young lawyer Cicero. The investigation takes Gordianus to the houses of nobles and the brothels of Rome, encountering slaves, bodyguards and senators, and the corruption of Sulla's dictatorship.This is an absorbing novel, and the author really brings to life every aspect of Roman life, from top to bottom of society. Gordianus' investigations proceed steadily - although there are moments of danger, this is not in any way a 'blood and guts' Roman novel, and its fascination lies in the way the reader is immersed in the detail of Republican Rome. The brutality of this world is not ignored, but is always integral to the mystery. The course of the investigation that Gordianus undertakes brings out the contrast between city and country life, the bustle of the markets and law courts, and the lives of slaves at all levels. Another interesting facet of this book is the combination of fictional and real characters. This means that we get an impression of living alongside such historical figures as Sulla, Crassus and Cicero. I enjoyed learning more about these notable Romans and their achievements in such a lively and interesting way.This was a real pleasure to read and I would strongly recommend to anyone who enjoys historical fiction set in the Roman era.

  • Blaine DeSantis
    2019-04-14 22:20

    My first reading of a book by Steven Saylor and I really enjoyed this one. I am now into 3 different series about mysteries in Ancient Rome. The Medicus series by Ruth Downie, then there is Marcos Didius Falco by Lindsey Davis and now the Roma Sub Rosa series by Saylor.They all get about the same 4**** rating. I enjoyed all the history that Saylor incorporated into this book, as well as all the intrigue and hidden secrets that drove the plot. This series features Gordianus the Finder, who searches for clues to help Cicero in his first great oratorial defense, that being the defense of a man accused of killing his own father (Parricide) an extremely grave offense with an extreme death sentence for anyone found guilty of this crime. We get to meet all sorts of people from Ancient Rome - Cicero, Rufus, Sulla, Chrysogonos, and a host of others as Cicero prepares his defense and Gordianus must try and provide him with the clues and evidence necessary to support Cicero's arguments.The book sometimes gets a little heavy on history, especially the chapter that dealt with the rise of Sulla and the Social Wars for supremacy in Rome, but the book was a good, solid read and one I would recommend to one and all who like history, Roman history and a good mystery.

  • Ram
    2019-03-31 00:58

    An interesting book set in Rome at the end of Sula's dictatorship. The book is a combination of a crime thriller, historical novel and legal thriller and mostly reads like a page turner but includes some dull moments.I liked the descriptions of every day life in Rome, both of the nobility and of the more simple people. The struggles of power and the political schemes are interesting too. The emphasis of the book, on the day to day life in Rome as opposed to the big battles and expansions that are described in other books about the era, suited me.There were some descriptions of dreams and spiritual/mystical episodes that I did not really care for.

  • Valorie
    2019-03-28 02:09

    Roman Blood (book one of the Roma Sub Rosa series) by Steven Saylor centers around the real life patricide trial of a country farmer by the name of Sextus Roscius. The advocate of Sextus Roscius, the well known Marcus Tullius Cicero, employs the help of a man named Gordianus to dig up information about the murder in order to prove his client innocent. Gordianus is known as ‘the finder,’ a man well experienced in finding facts no matter how well hidden or obscure. Of course, such facts don’t come easy. There is much lying, much danger, and tons of characters only out for their own benefit that all together paint a picture of a corrupt Roman aristocracy. It is a very perilous time in Rome, after all, which has only just caught its breath from the proscription of Sulla and his restoration of the aristocracy over the common people. In order to prove Sextus Roscius innocent, Cicero and Gordianus must attack those very aristocrats that now hold Rome in a powerful grip.I avoided reading this book for a while because I didn’t want it to disappoint me. And it didn’t. Saylor is clearly a historian. If it’s not obvious in his reader’s notes, it’s apparent in his clear delivery of accurate and compelling historical detail. You can almost see the dark dilapidation of the Roman Subura that is as hazardous as it is teeming with life, or see the immaculate scene of Carthage on the Rostra, or imagine the men in togas sitting around the Senate. What Saylor does is bring Rome to life, but not without insult and credit where credit is due. He doesn’t present a Rome that is glorious and magnificent as some are prone to do, but neither does it portray it as a place irredeemably corrupt as others would have it. Saylor gives his readers Rome in all her shameless glory without falling into some one of the most common traps of those who attempt to write historical fiction. A tendency of most historical writers is to accentuate what is ‘abnormal’ by today’s standards because they imagine it will help people understand the time period more, or respect it for how different it is, but this often backfires. I like how Saylor did not give excuses for Rome, but didn’t gloss over the many faults. Details are presented in an easy and matter of fact way, which I found helped me get into the time period more simply because it was all given so casually.Roman Blood is not a ‘great men of Rome’ sort of book, though it does feature many of the people we know: Cicero and Sulla to name a few. They all play their roles, as great men do, but without stealing the spotlight. Gordianus is a great character because he is likable, realistic and humble. And very Roman. I also quite like the portrayal of Cicero in Roman Blood because I think it captured his peculiarities perfectly while still redeeming him at the end when it was shown to Gordianus the doubter that Cicero is more than just a picky nag and really is one of the greatest statesmen. Roman Blood is as much mystery as it is historical fiction. It’s full of murder, perversion, ruthlessness, and doubt. There are enough twists and turns to make the plot interesting while not so many that you lose sense of the thing. In the end, you come to understand that everyone is guilty of something in some way and even an ‘innocent’ man has committed plenty of crimes of his own.

  • Victor Bruneski
    2019-04-18 20:26

    I wasn't expecting when I first started this book. I had read a Finder story years ago. At the time I wasn't that impressed with the story, maybe because it was in the middle of the series, and I couldn't remember much of it now anyway.On the other hand, Roman Blood is the first in the series, so that is a better start. Starting at the start is a better start, so start there.The first thing that leaps out to the reader is how detailed Mr. Saylor is on showing Roman life back then. I think most books about Ancient Rome tend to focus on battles, and their leaders. The story focuses a lot on Sulla and Cicero, but from a normal Roman citizen's point of view. You can tell the author's love for Roma in the opening chapters as the protagonist travel's to meet his client Cicero.These moments, and when Gordianus is talking politics is my favorite parts of the novel.The mystery part almost seems secondary. The mystery is pretty much solved halfway through, although there is a twist at the end. It also does not have a happy ending, but something more realistic.If you are looking for a historical fiction set in Rome, I would highly recommend this book. However, if you are looking for a mystery, then I'd look elsewhere.

  • Kavita
    2019-03-29 22:58

    Roman Blood is a fictional narrative of Cicero's first major case, Sextius Roscia's defence for killing this father. He hires the services of Gordanius to find out exactly what happened, and the author has woven a thrilling story. I am not much of a Roman history fan, but I looked up some aspects of the case and was surprised by how true Saylor has been to history, even with the inclusion of a major fictional character. The narrative was good too, and the action is consistent. The only parts that bored me was when the author had Gordianus pontificate about Roman history. When you are in the mood for murder and mysteries, you don't want to read about who won wars or what their aristocratic background is. A murder mystery must keep to the theme. The characters were well etched, and I especially loved Tiro. There were no inconsistencies such as superwomen or stupid men masquerading as heroes, as is so often seen in historical fiction and / or mystery novels these days. Every person behaved as we would have expected them to behave, and that is a huge plus. I also enjoyed the details about daily Roman life that Saylor wove in effortlessly in the story. All in all, an excellent read for history / mystery fans.

  • Ensiform
    2019-04-15 19:59

    Gordianus the Finder – a Roman detective with a lust for the truth, hard drinking, and his slave-girl Bathsheba – is hired by Cicero to unearth the facts behind a mysterious killing. Gentleman farmer Sextus Roscius is accused of killing his estranged father, but the truth of the matter may reveal corruption not only in the man’s own family, but in the noblest and richest families of Rome; the murder may involve even the dictator Sulla himself.This is a superb historical detective novel. Gordianus is a Roman Matt Scudder, a hard-living survivor with no special interests or abilities except a deep need for the truth and, possibly, a liking for rough justice. He’s an empathetic everyman with foibles and flaws, always a must in a detective. Saylor’s scholarship seems excellent; his Rome is vivid and picturesque. You get a sharp portrait of Roman life in 80 BC, from the street gutters to the gangs to the games of trigon to the slave economy. Cicero in particular is brought to life in fine detail. The book’s plot is convoluted and opaque, but in a satisfying way. All together, a promising start to a mystery series with a very solid historical background.

  • Dawn
    2019-04-06 20:59

    In this book I have finally found a Roman historical fiction that details a vast portion of the roman political and justice system. Gordianus the Finder is hired to aid Cicero with the defense of a man accused of patricide. Cicero is a young man at the start of his career and he is determined to make a name for himself. As Cicero prepares to argue his first case, Gordianus must travel through the most disgusting of slums and to the farms in the countryside in order to solve the mystery. I almost loved this book. It was entertaining and informative, with enough action to keep the story from getting boring and enough accurate history about the laws and living styles of Romans in 80 BC to hold my interest. I didn’t think it was quite good enough to hold its own with the other books on my 5 star shelf but it came close.

  • Kam
    2019-04-10 01:27

    I honestly wasn't quite sure what to think when I'd acquired Saylor's Roma Sub Rosa series. It was something of a blind acquisition, really, given that I was looking for something to tide me over after I'd gotten something of a "Roman high" from watching Spartacus: Blood and Sand and was waiting for the arrival of my copy of Gods of the Arena. This seemed like a decent-enough series to start out with, so I decimated an entire shelf at the local thrift bookstore (miracle of miracles, it turned out they had the entire series up to the most recent book), and brought the whole lot home.Thankfully, I was not disappointed. Roman Blood was an interesting ride, a look at late Republican Rome that was of a different flavor from the one I was used to - then again, the Rome of this period that I was used to was based mostly on history books, and there are just some days when those aren't nearly as fun as fiction. The language reads very well, and while I don't know how close it is to the colloquial Latin that was spoken during the period, I think Saylor has done enough research to at least give it that feel (as any good writer should, I think). Part of the novel's charm is its cast, both fictional and non-fictional. I'm not sure if Saylor's depiction of Cicero is accurate, but it is interesting nevertheless. His slave, Tiro, is a sympathetic character as well. But what I truly appreciated was that, come the ending, no one is truly guilty or innocent - which is all I'm going to say, because to say more would be to spoil the ending totally. Either way, I appreciate the "gray" morality more than if it was clearly black-and-white.As to the plot, it's nothing new - the mystery fan will find similar (likely better) in other novels. But the milieu is exotic and distracting enough that maybe its faults can be ignored.

  • C.E.
    2019-03-31 22:05

    First in the Roma Sub Rosa series. I read all of them. This review covers the series. Most are good, but after the seventh book ( ninth if you count the short story collections) the series begins to falter. By A Mist of Prophecies, it begins to seem the author was contriving whatever personal crisis he could for the hero, Gordianus, as if Rome lacked crises enough to move along character....And plot! And his scholarship was NOT good enough to warrant a lot of the hype. While his take of events is often plausible, by the time the series reaches Julius Caesar, he appears to accept what antiCaesar sources related and not taken a very balanced approach at all. And if he understood ancient Rome so well, he would know NO ONE as overtly bisexual as he makes Caesar would have succeeded at politics. Colleen McCullough's First Man in Rome books were far more detailed about Roman life, and her interpretation of events and people more plausible. I have not read the whole canon of ancient sources, but enough to know that much. summary: fun mysteries, but fades with time.

  • Karla
    2019-04-14 21:08

    I had to read this one for my Roman History class in college, and while it was ok, I didn't get a sense of Rome, its political atmosphere, and what made it tick anywhere near to what Colleen McCullough manages to do in her Masters of Rome series. Despite the professor's insistence that this book was more "accurate" wrt to Cataline's conspiracy and the portrayal of Cicero, the writing was pretty dry and uninvolving. I'm not big into mysteries anyway, so my enjoyment suffered from Genre Apathy, Required Reading, Comparison To A Great Book, and Professorial Hype (she knew Saylor, a habit which made me leery of one's opinion then and now).

  • Vicki Cline
    2019-04-19 19:22

    One of my favorite books, featuring the actual murder defense that made Cicero's reputation. Gordianus the Finder is a wonderful protagonist; you really get to know and like him tremendously. And Saylor makes Rome come alive, describing the streets and people quite vividly. The actual solution to the murder really surprised me, even the fourth(?) time I read it (my memory not being quite as good as it should). One of my favorite things about this series is the way Gordianus' unconventional family grows.

  • Jamie Collins
    2019-04-21 00:15

    Nice historical mystery. I'll read more in this series. It's set towards the end of Sulla's dictatorship and features a young Cicero preparing to argue one of his first cases, defending an accused parricide. I liked the "detective" and the descriptions of the city were vivid.

  • Sharon Penman
    2019-04-14 02:57

    This is an excellent historical mystery series set in ancient Rome. It has darker undertones than Lindsay Davis's Falco series,which I also enjoy, and Saylor's main character interacts with all of the major players in the twilight of the Roman Republic.

  • Moshe Mikanovsky
    2019-03-27 22:06

    I loved this book. The combination of historical Rome with its ruthless rulers, merciless rich and spoiled citizens, poor slaves and bloody politics, with a part murder mystery part legal thriller, are very exciting! I'll look for more in this series.

  • aPriL does feral sometimes
    2019-04-20 22:06

    Eco is the beating heart at the center of everything. He made me shiver. At his appearance in this book, I hoped for the best, but I prepared for the worst. Eco (Echo), child of a destitute widow turned prostitute, impoverished, mute, deserted, is the scapegoat of the poor, rude neighborhood. All he has is courage and a strong sense of justice. But he is a tiny, starving little boy, beaten savagely by all and unprotected, voiceless and without strength. He must run and hide to stay alive at all. Survival is very very doubtful for this small silent symbol, yearning for Roman justice. He is an insignificant matter to the universe. However, he saw a man murdered, and he saw who did it.Gordianus the Finder, Roman detective, is hired by none other than Marcus Tullius Cicero, who soon will become Rome's greatest advocate, legal defender for the 'unjustly' accused. Gordianus has never met Cicero before, so he is wary but curious when the slave Tiro, owned by Cicero, comes to the Finder's rundown Roman house. The case Cicero wants researched is one that may involve Sulla, the current Roman dictator, or his relatives, or his favorite freed slave, beautiful and now powerful master of his own house. Yikes!Sextus Roscius is accused of murdering his father after he feared being cut from the elderly man's will. Roscius is denying all charges but no one believes him, except for certain supportive patrons and friends. Parricide is REALLY frowned upon in Rome, which is amazing, considering that rampant legal State executions were recently conducted by the paranoid Sulla, who stuck the heads of thousands of suspected enemies on stakes through a 'legal' process called proscriptions, entitling the Roman State to confiscate all property and money from the family of the man so proscribed, and selling the property leftovers to interested or connected favorites of Sulla. Sulla had only just declared the proscriptions finished, so all of Rome was a tad bit nervous about going against anyone connected to Sulla. The ambitious and righteous Cicero was having none of it - he was going to prove Sextus innocent no matter who's toes he stepped on. Of course, he neglects to tell Gordianus of many of these issues. Gordianus takes the case, thinking he will be able to stay under the radar of Rome's finest families, as well as it's underworld. He is wrong.Bethesda, Gordianus' slave, does her best to make a clean habitable home from the inherited furnishings of her master. She loves her cat Bast, which Gordianus allows. So Gordianus is understandably upset when he comes home after stepping on a few toes and finds the cat dead in his house. Where is Bethesda?Gordianus is a nice man in a not-so-nice Rome. He has a heart of gold under a skin as tough as nails. Eco and Bethesda have touched his heart, and they, along with other friends, remind Gordianus that as difficult as justice is to uphold, personal integrity sometimes is enough.This is one of my favorite literary references, and I think it would be the author's too:"'Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,' said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit's robe,' but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw.' 'It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,' was the Spirit's sorrowful reply. 'Look here.'From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.'Oh, Man. look here. Look, look, down here.' exclaimed the Ghost.They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.'Spirit. are they yours.' Scrooge could say no more.'They are Man's,' said the Spirit, looking down upon them. 'And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it.' cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. 'Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.' 'Have they no refuge or resource.' cried Scrooge.'Are there no prisons.' said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. 'Are there no workhouses.'" - A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

  • Stephanie
    2019-04-09 03:12

    Fun historical mystery. Marred somewhat by moments of awkward writing. In particular, I refer to the passage around 75% of the way in during which the narrator drones on and on and on and on about the Social Wars and Sulla versus Marius. Prior to this moment the author had seamlessly mixed historical exposition and original plot. Docking half a point for this, I was so annoyed. My wrath, this review can haz it.There's lots to like about this, though. Cicero is as 'gray and gray morality' as he seems to be in all fictional incarnations in which I've encountered him. It's especially fun to see him as a (reckless, arrogant) young man at very beginning of his career. As narrators go, I rather like Gordianus (his "hangover cure, do you haz one?" intro seemed overdone, but he promptly calmed down, so no real harm dine) and I'm sticking with the series on that account. Tiro was pretty great and Bethesda shows promise; withholding judgement there, because her serene attitude towards slavery and... Well, everything, all seemed a bit too convenient. The mystery itself is engaging, though sometimes feels like a prop for (surprise, shock) the larger social upheaval at hand. Frankly, I think I prefer it that way. Crimes that seem to exist in a vacuum bore me.Overall, this is a vivid and fast read, for better or for worse. Thankfully, more of the former!

  • Penny
    2019-03-25 19:19

    This is an ancient Rome murder mystery/political intrigue type of book.It plunges you into the life of an investigator, Gordiano, who is asked to help the lawyer Cicero. Cicero is defending a man, Roscius, who has been accused of murdering his (Roscius') father.The book is very detailed in its descriptions of the seedier life of Rome. All the different classes, their ambitions or lack of them, and the political gambles people take are all part of the plot, which weaves all over the place amongst the characters, but remains tightly focussed on the murder itself. The slaves also play a major part in the whole saga. It is in places rather gory but not to the point of making me stop reading.It is very readable, fast-paced and I didnt guess the ending. This is a new author for me and I will be seeking out more of his writing.

  • Jon
    2019-03-30 23:02

    Good quality (well researched) historical fiction and mystery. If this is how Roman citizens (and slaves) acted, why do we idolize them?

  • Kathy Davie
    2019-03-26 01:03

    First in the Roma Sub Rosa ancient Roman mystery series featuring Gordianus, a disreputable Finder.My TakeI seem to be in a very interesting rut! I keep reading novels that are set in the same places. I had just finished reading King's Gambit (SPQR, I) by John Maddox Roberts which is set in ancient Rome, and here I am plunging into, yup, ancient Rome. With the same historic characters, but at an earlier time with Cicero and Sulla.It's a fascinating look from the average man's perspective of a period in Roman history when the great generals were more interested in filling their treasure chests and placating their soldiers, when Sulla worked to ensure the stability of his dictatorship, and others suffered for his ambitions. The manner of law for that time is certainly enough to make me appreciate our current system! I am grateful to live today!It's a typical storyline that includes the investigator getting too close and being threatened with beatings and messages and death, chases and escapes, but it feels completely different when set in ancient times. It was fun to read and observe the parallels between then and now. Nothing much has changed in how man behaves.I just love it! Saylor is so incredibly descriptive of the life in Rome. From the early waking to the crowds in the streets, the markets, the food, the, ahem, fragrances. He provides a sense of the Romans and how they live their daily lives.Rome wakes with a self-satisfied stretching of the limbs and a deep inhalation, stimulating the lungs, quickening the pulse.I enjoyed Saylor's "info dump"---well-disguised as a walk through early morning Rome to Cicero's house as Gordiano enjoys being alive and in Rome, appreciating the life around him, and having his own thoughts as well. The corruption is related as part of Gordiano's considerations as he investigates, enlightening us as to the not-so-fabulous features of Roman life. It was frustrating for Cicero and Gordiano to have young Sextus as a client; he was amazingly belligerent and uncooperative. Then when we learn more about his personal habits. Gag. I'd like to see him die for that!It's a great way to learn about the history of Rome---making it stick in a way that a schoolroom history class never could---although, the more formal study does round it out and include the a broader spectrum of cause-and-effect.! It's all about the crazy politics, the patronage system, family life, career expectations, and the food and how one dined. I can't wait to read Arms of Nemesis!The StoryIt's an unexpected start when Tiro finds Gordiano hungover, although he quickly impresses young Tiro with his powers of deduction.Gordiano does his best to talk Cicero out of the case, but it's a deep game with a challenge that Gordiano can't resist: a man wrongly arrested for murder, and no one interested in the truth.The CharactersGordianus is a Finder---an investigator---who lives on the Esquiline Hill and is shunned by almost everyone. Bethesda is his young slave with whom he appears to be in love. She's a cheeky little thing. Bast is Bethesda's beloved cat.Marcus Tullius Cicero is a young lawyer just starting out and needs to win this case that no one else will touch. His family has wealth though and he lives on the Capitoline. Tiro is his educated slave (he's in King's Gambit as well) who works as Cicero's secretary. Marcus Tullius Tiro is young Tiro's grandfather, freed by Cicero, and he acts as doorkeeper. Marcus Messalla, a.k.a., Rufus, is sixteen; his sister, Valeria, is Sulla's fifth wife.Caecilia Metella is Cicero's aunt and was best friends with the murdered man. And she's a bit of a nutcase. Ahausarus is a eunuch, and I don't know if he's dim or just very clever.Quintus Hortensius is the greatest lawyer in Rome, Rufus's brother, and Valeria's half-brother.Sextus Roscius is a middle-aged farmer in Ameria, running it for his father, Sextus Roscius. Gaius Roscius is a much younger, beautiful, son who was poisoned some years ago. Chrestus and Felix were Sextus the Elder's slave bodyguards who were with him that fatal night. Big Roscia and Little Roscia are Sextus the Younger's daughters---a weird Roman habit of naming daughters by the father's surname and the order in which they were born! Carus is one of the slaves on the farm.Magnus and Capito are Sextus' cousins; Mallius Galucia is a freed slave of theirs who is never far from his former master's side.Titus Megarus is Sextus' supportive neighbor in Ameria. Lucius is his son, and he has three daughters---you can guess their names! Varus is a Go-Between who owes Gordianus a favor. This particular favor is named Zoticus, and he's to guard Gordianus' house and Bethesda.The House of Swans is a brothel that Sextus patronizes, for he's in love with the pregnant Elena. Electra is an older whore with taste and skill. Polia is a terrified widow with an observant but deaf son, Eco. I love it---Vespa for the name of a horse! Gaius Erucius is a freedman with the shadiest law practice in Rome. Lucius Cornelius Sulla has arranged to be elected dictator of Rome. Chrysogonus is a former slave of Sulla's, who was freed in thanks. He's really picked up the way of enriching oneself. Metrobius is a female impersonator and an old friend of Sulla's. Marcus Licinius Crassus is a wealthy Roman, and we'll see how he manages to increase it. Seller beware...The Rostra is a "high pedestal decorated with the beaks of captured ships, from which orators and advocates plead cases".The CoverThe cover is RED. A night scene in ancient Rome at the very start of the story when the warehouse is burning up and people are fleeing.The title is a declaration of honor, for Roman Blood could never stoop to patricide.

  • Kenny
    2019-03-26 23:04

    Having read some of this series way out of synch going back to the beginning was interesting - remembering some of the characters from future novels, or the real people obviously has some himpact, particularly on the mortal danger parts. Understandably this first book in the series is a bit rough round the edges compared to later ones. Against the background of Cicero's first major trial, defending a chap accused of patricide. And there's lots of uncertainty in the background of major politics. There's quite a lot of history lesson shoehorned in, between the well done, obvious-but-understandable and the much commented rise of Sulla section in the final third that does appear to have been randomly pasted in from a neighbouring historical tome, with practically no pretence at weaving into the story - 'a song which the protagonist summarises into a multipage lesson' is one of the most jarring examples I've ever seen. But then there's good writing too - some predictable characters, twists and a couple less expected. And with Cicero and Tiro as main characters it's difficult to go wrong - Cicero leaving enough to give a good idea of his personality and words (including his speech at the trial) but also leaves plenty of scope for invention. Overall quite readable, and worth starting with if you fancy others in the series.

  • Dennis Fischman
    2019-04-12 19:06

    This is much darker stuff and better written than the only other Roman mystery series I’ve read, the Marcus Didius Falco books by Lindsay Davis. It’s also set at a different time, when Rome is still nominally a republic. There are resonances with the U.S. political situation today that I find disturbing.Unlike some other reviewers, I liked learning the history and didn’t mind the way it was presented, at all. I look forward to the next Gordianus the Finder mystery.

  • Elena
    2019-04-11 01:08

    Roman Blood is the first book following the adventures of Gordianus the Finder, a sort of private detective living in Ancient Rome. I had heard good things about this series of historical mysteries and, being a huge fan of the time period, I was very excited to start it. For the most part I greatly enjoyed the book. The historical setting was fascinating and well researched: from the first pages I got invested in the story and truly felt like I was in a different time period. The portrayal of the historical figures, especially Cicero and Sulla, is equally well done, believable and intriguing. I hope next books in the series will feature more famous historical figures.As for the fictional main character, Gordianus, he is likeable enough even if he lacks a spark which would make him truly memorable. Also, for being a sort of private detective he seemed too naive at times. However, I am confident I will grow to like him more and more in the next books.What I appreciated less was the mystery. It wasn't bad at all, and the final twist was definitely unexpected; but, while at the beginning I was very invested in the story and wanted to know what would happen, the middle section was a little slow-going for me. There were some parts which felt overly descriptive and not very significant to the general plot. However, this is only a minor complaint, for as I said I over all enjoyed the story.I hope to get my hands on the next books soon. I think this is a series I will greatly enjoy.

  • Simon Mcleish
    2019-04-04 21:19

    Originally published on my blog here in October 1999.The third I have read (but the first in sequence) of Saylor's Roman detective stories about Gordianus the Finder gets him involved in one of the most famous trials in history. It's famous because it made the name of Cicero, whose speech from the trial still survives.The murder victim, Sextus Roscius the elder, is a wealthy farmer who has retired to Rome to enjoy himself while his son (with the same name) runs the farm, its profits funding the old man's taste for the high life. The two men have never liked each other very much, and when the father is murdered in a back street - on his way to a brothel - during a visit by the son to Rome, the latter is suspected to be a parricide. This particular crime carried an extremely unpleasant penalty under Roman law (a most painful execution), and so the trial immediately assumed immense public interest, and so was likely to enhance Cicero's career if a successful defence was made.Saylor has looked carefully at Cicero's speech - the prosecution speech does not survive, and has to be inferred from the rebuttal of points from it made by Cicero - and by reading between the lines has constructed an interesting mystery novel. (Cicero's speech aims to prove the innocence of his client, rather than to identify the guilty party.) This makes Roman Blood take a place in the top rank of historical crime novels.