When it comes to accurate historical detail and convincing depiction of ancient Roman society, author Caroline Lawrence knows whereof she writes. Before becoming a children's book author, Caroline Lawrence was a student of Classics at Berkeley and later at Cambridge, as well as a teacher of Latin at a small London primary school.
I am a librarian by profession and have read all of the books in Caroline Lawrence's Roman Mysteries series. The Sirens of Surrentum is one of her best. The protagonist of the story, Flavia Gemina, is about to celebrate her 11th birthday and is just one year away from being of marriageable age (!) by ancient Roman custom. Readers around the same age as Flavia (perhaps age 10 and older being the best age level for the younger readers of this book) will laugh at the foolishness of boys, as well as learn the valuable life-lesson that one can be too young for love.
There is delicious danger in the story, as we follow the young adventurers to the villa of a famous poisoner in their quest to solve the mystery. And, as with all of Caroline Lawrence's books, we learn a few fascinating facts of Roman history and culture along the way, such as the story related by the Roman philosopher Seneca about the German barbarian who killed himself with a sponge-stick (an object customarily employed for more mundane purposes).
Wittily written, NEVER condescending to young readers, and an absolute delight even for adult enthusiasts of stories set in ancient Rome and its environs, The Sirens of Surrentum is a gem from start to finish!