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on 12 December 2000
When the decadent tribune Clodius is caught infiltrating the city's most sacred women's rite, who else but Decius Caecilius Metellus should be called upon to investigate the sacrilege that has all of Rome talking. As Decius begins to uncover a dangerous web of intrigues, four brutal murders occur. Decius knows his own survival is at stake, if he can't find the perpetrators soon. But readers familiar with the SPQR series know, this has never damped his irreverent sense of humor, which makes "Decius" stand out. During the past 2000 years, many explanations have been given as to what Clodius up to on the night of the sacrilege. John Maddox Roberts's story is definitely the most entertaining one. The level of historical accuracy is astonishing. The plot and the characters are utterly convincing. One can only hope that more of the series will soon be re-printed in English...
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 26 February 2007
John Maddox Roberts is the pseudonym of Mark Ramsay, author of numerous works of science fiction and fantasy, in addition to his successful historical SPQR mystery series. He lives in New Mexico with his wife.

There are more secret societies and strange rites than you can shake a stick at in the Ancient city of Rome, most of them admittedly for the male section of the population, but as in any other period of history the female of the species hates to be left out and so they have their own secret rites and woe betide any man seen taking an interest in these events.

Naturally when one of the women's sacred meeting is infiltrated by a corrupt patrician dressed in female attire, Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger is brought in to unmask the suspects. When four brutal killings occur it becomes obvious that the infiltrators are not just peeping toms and Decius enlists the help of a notorious criminal.

Between them the pair establish a link between the infiltration of the women's sacred rites and the murders and this leads Decius from the long rung of the ladder of society up to the heights of the upper class, finding violence and corruption along the way . . .
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Decius rides again!
I discovered this set of books by accident and I really am enjoying them immensely.
Roberts is a superb writer and not a page is wasted nor a word as the story like all of his rattles along.
The books take me just 3 days of sheer delight to read and you always end them with that wonderful feeling of an entertaining story well told and the desire for more of the same.

Each book is in a way similar the same wonderful and believable character but each has a wonderful difference, which it the exotic setting and the complexity of the problem encountered and to be solved.

The phase ' A darned good Yarn' comes to mind and this book is just that.

The hero Decius Caecilius Metellus is a really good one and the support cast hang around him well.
Old enemies appear and threats follow Decius like flies or wasps to an open jam pot.

Like all his stories we really get the feel of the Roman cobbles under our feet as we follow our hero around Rome.

As usual Roberts has that brilliant knack of exposing his readers to a side of Roma or a feature that they did not know and the major one here is revelation of the secret rite which is open to Married Roman Women only- a rite that all Roman men would give their best toga or most attractive slave girl to know what goes on.

The fact that Decius most hated enemy is caught there is a brilliant twist in plot to this brilliant story.
But of course Politics with a capital P is always the most subtle and devious danger.
I will not say more or I would give the story away.

This is brilliant read and a very welcome addition to the series.
It will make you want to explore the other additions in the series and if it does I really envy your journey in discovering this fabulous historical series.
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on 29 August 2011
Too bad Steven Saylor didn't wrote on this. That left John Maddox Roberts to write on one of the juicest moments of the Republic's twilight. Young Decius is perfectly true to his time, and so is his slave Hermes, appearing here for the first time. Their relationship it's an occasion for manuy funny moments.Here the sacrilege of the Bona Dea's rite it's an occasionfor investigation, for the sake of the scandalous Clodia. Decius will find there was more to it than foolish sacrilegious bravado on Clodius'part. A great series' fascinating chapter, showing Maddox Roberts interests in cults and rituals and exoterics.
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