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Catilina's Riddle Paperback – 30 Apr 1998

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Robinson; 1st UK Paperback Edition edition (30 April 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1854878891
  • ISBN-13: 978-1854878892
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13.2 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,245,170 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Steven Saylor is the author of EMPIRE: THE NOVEL OF IMPERIAL ROME, a follow-up to the international bestseller ROMA: THE NOVEL OF ANCIENT ROME. These two epic novels comprise a multi-generational saga that spans the first 1200 years of the city, from Iron Age trading post to the height of empire under Hadrian.

Steven is also the author of the ROMA SUB ROSA series of historical mysteries featuring Gordianus the Finder, set in the ancient Rome of Cicero, Caesar, and Cleopatra. The latest book in the series is THE SEVEN WONDERS, a prequel that follows the 18-year-old Gordianus on his journey to the Seven Wonders of the World.


Outside the Roman books are two novels set in Steven's native Texas. A TWIST AT THE END is based on America's first recorded serial murders, which terrorized Austin, Texas in 1885. The chief protagonist is young Will Porter, who later became famous as O. Henry. HAVE YOU SEEN DAWN? is a contemporary thriller set in a small Texas town not unlike the one where Steven grew up.

Steven's books have been published in 21 languages, and book tours have taken him across the United States, England, and Europe. He has appeared as an expert on Roman life on The History Channel, and has spoken at numerous college campuses, The Getty Villa, and the International Conference on the Ancient Novel.

Steven was born in Texas in 1956 and graduated with high honors from the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied history and Classics. He divides his time between homes in Berkeley, California, and Austin, Texas. "If I could have another home," he says, "it would definitely be in London, my favorite big city in the world." When not using his brain, he likes to keep in shape running, swimming, and lifting weights.

Product Description


A sweeping and marvellously evocative story, with page after page of authentic detail (Booklist)

It is Saylor's particular skill to sketch the political intrigues of the time with great authenticity... the sense that murky, terrible things are moving secretly beneath the surface of a fairly benign exterior increases in this brilliant novel (San Francisco Review of Books) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

Steven Saylor's historical mysteries set in ancient Rome and featuring investigator Gordianus the Finder enjoy a widespread following in America. Robinson is publishing the whole series - five novels to date - in the UK. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 12 May 2004
Format: Paperback
The entire 'Gordianus' series by Saylor has to be commended as an inspiring blend of very accurate history and captivating murder mysteries. Catilina's Riddle however takes a special place within this series. While all the books deal with important political events in the last years of the decaying Old Republic, featuring all the well known and quite a few of the lesser players of the final Act of Res Publica Romana, the detective element of the books is very much in the foreground.
This makes the series very readable and exciting even for people with no or very little knowledge and interest in Roman history.
Catilina's Riddle however is different. The political upheaval during the year of Cicero's consulship, culminating in the attempted coup de etat by Catilina, takes the centre stage. This will undoubtedly lessen the appeal of this book to the reader for whom Rome and its turbulent history holds little fascination.
But anyone with interest in, let alone knowledge of, Rome in the 1st century BC will be entirely captivated by this splendid work. While the historical events are portrayed with meticulous accuracy, Saylor shows his tremendous insight into the subject matter by his masterful portrayal of Catilina. This enigmatic figure owes much of his posthumous reputation to the pen of his great adversary Cicero, who had ample reason to show him in not too favourably a light. Saylor tries to extract what might have been underneath the smear, so liberally applied by Cicero's brush, while carefully avoiding to invent or distort historical facts. The result is magnificent. Catilina emerges as a fascinating and tragic figure of great charisma, forced by the fates and his ambitions to play out the role history had set aside for him.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By superscribe on 31 May 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was my fifth book in the Gordianus the Finder series and the most disappointing so far. Even a dead body turning up in the first half of the story did little to move the plot, such as it was at this stage, along. Plenty of interesting information about family life on a farm and the politics of Ancient Rome but little in the way of drama. The second half of the book provides a few more corpses and the development of the long awaited storyline so things start to move along a bit. The 'book' (can we still say book if it's on Kindle?)comes to a satisfactory conclusion as far as Gordianus and his family is concerned and eventually the mystery of the dead bodies is neatly explained although by now I wasn't all that interested. Steven Saylor has obviously put a tremendous amount of research into this series of stories and is clearly an expert on the period. Sometimes intriguing background material, no mattter how interesting, overwhelms everything else and I think this has happened a bit too often in 'Catalina's Riddle.' Having said that I'm still a fan and have downloaded 'The Venus Throw' which I look forward to reading with enthusiasm, largely due to the enjoyment I experienced from the first four Gordianus books I read.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Nadia Yar on 9 April 2007
Format: Paperback
The Roman private detective Gordianus, called the Finder, seeks to flee the dangers and the corruption of Rome and retires with his family to a farm in the Etruscan countryside. But Rome won't let him go: his benefactor, now arch conservative consul Cicero presses Gordianus to become one of his spies in order to bring down an alleged criminal conspirator, the radical reformer Lucius Sergius Catilina. When Gordianus tries to refuse this dubious request, a headless body turns up on his farm. At first, Gordianus tries to solve the riddle of this "Nemo" (lat. for Nobody) and to steer clear of both the Ciceronian and Catilina's party. But soon, the powerful Roman elite leaves the hounded Catilina and his desperate supporters no way out except for armed insurrection, and Gordianus' family becomes drawn into this tragic civil and military confrontation.

Please note that "Catilina's Riddle" is not in the first line a mystery novel. It is a political thriller, a human tragedy and a colorful panoramic view of Roman society and politics that seems disturbingly up-to date. The book starts out slowly, so be prepared to give it time. It is, however, not too long. In fact, "Catilina's Riddle" ought to be longer than it is, because Saylor regretfully neglects to discribe in proper detail the social misery, poverty, enslavement and sheer human desperation that led to the uprising of Catilina. The historical sources about Catilina's conspiracy are very scarse, very biased and therefore highly contradictory in themselves. Cicero's speeches against Catilina are not much more than poisonous invectives of a conservative statesman against a popular reformer, and Sallust draws on them heavily in his book.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 16 Feb. 2006
Format: Paperback
I disagree with the other reviewer. This is actually one of the best in the series. I agree that it starts slowly and it can be difficult to get into it. However, the historial detail is superb and the story ultimately one of the most rewarding of the series.
It is also a very interesting take on a generally reviled figure, Catiline. Over the centuries, the general consensus seems to be that the man was a monster. The characterization of him in this book is delicate, ambiguous, and ultimately more realistic than the usual demonic portrayals.
If you know a bit about the period and are an intelligent reader, you'll enjoy this.
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