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Murder Imperial (Ancient Roman Mysteries)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 1 August 2015
The perfect companion for all Roman history enthusiasts is THE ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKER Calix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker

This book is part of Doherty's fourth-century-Rome series, which features a female spy as a protagonist. Claudia is the daughter of a centurion, but she and her brother have been raised by her tavern-keeper uncle. The book opens with a traumatic event: Claudia's deaf-mute brother, Felix, being killed and herself being raped by a man with a chalice tattooed on his wrist. This sudden and chilling opening then segues into the main storyline: courtesans frequented by Emperor Constantine are being found dead with crosses etched into their cheeks, a mockery of the Christian faith that Constantine is considering supporting. The deaths, while not directly linked to Constantine in the sense of making him a suspect, are embarrassing enough to him and his mother, Helena, that Claudia is assigned to the case. Claudia is a member of the Agentes in Rebus ("the doers of things", per Doherty's introduction) and as such is a master spy -- a "little mouse" who scurries around catching tidbits of information and formulating plans.

I enjoyed the story it was well done and kept me hanging on waiting to see what came next. The introduction, which sets the stage for fourth-century Rome at the time of the story, was another nice touch for those of us who are not entirely up on our Roman history, although my Latin experience made me smile at things like "In hoc signe vinces" and "Agentes in rebus". (I even recognised a quote that introduced one of the chapters -- "Anger is a brief madness", from Horace.

Another interesting aspect was the fact that Anastasius was deaf. I suppose there have been deaf people throughout the ages, but they probably don't appear very often in historical fiction, and if they do they probably don't have as prominent and as useful a role as our friend the priest. Such a unique character definitely added to this book's appeal, and even Claudia was a smart and resourceful protagonist. (She just didn't have a forceful personality in her speech; it was more in her actions that she shone.)

All in all I enjoyed this book, Paul Doherty is a good writer however with this one he could have done with lighting a fire under his main protagonist Claudia.
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on 1 June 2009
The only thing that prevents me from giving this story 5 stars is that I found it unnecessarily violent at times, though I appreciate the world of Ancient Rome was a violent place, I would have liked it to be toned down. That aside, this is a really good story with a great central character. Claudia is a poor, young woman who has experienced much hardship in her short life and this has led her to become a spy for the Emperor. All she has is her morals and her wits and has to really use the latter to survive in such an ignorant and dark place as Rome is depicted, in the 4th century. But it isn't just the characterisation that's good. This book has really good pace, doesn't drag on and the plot doesn't disappoint either. It's a great read and I recommend it to anyone who loves a good mystery.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 November 2006
Paul Doherty is the consummate professional when it comes to writing historical novels. I for one do not know how he can be so prolific with his offering of books and yet make sure that each of them is well researched. Whether they be 13th, 14th, or fifteenth century they are always true to the period. He also writes about Ancient Egypt and Alexander the Great. Paul Doherty has the rare talent of making you feel as though you are there, be it medieval England, or battling with Alexander. The sounds and smells of the period seem to waft from the pages of his books. He has now turned his attention to Ancient Rome and this is the second book in the series.

313 AD. At the dawn of the fourth century, the Roman empire is beset by economic problems, barbarian incursions and religious divides. After a series of tyrannical rulers, Emperor Diocletian has divided the empire into east and west. Now, with Constantine's victory over Maxentius in the west, Rome finally appears to be emerging from its turbulent past. But instead of enjoying the fruits of his victory, Emperor Constantine is in trouble. In order to consolidate his power and under the guidance of his mother Helena, he plans to harness the power of the increasingly influential Christian Church. Then a series of murders brings his loyalties into question. The emperor frequents courtesans from the Guild of Aphrodite, three of whom have been found dead - all with crosses etched on their foreheads and each cheek. In order to protect her son's future, Helena, aided by the priest Anastasius, calls upon the service of an 'agente in rebus politicis' - or spy. Claudia is the niece of a tavern-owner and is placed as a wine-server in Constantine's household. But Claudia has secret motives of her own...
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on 7 March 2014
Book two of the ancient roman mysteries. If you like accessable historical crime you will like this. The story moves along at a good pace, a bit repetative in the descriptive parts but a good easy read.
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on 17 April 2014
I like these stories, it gives you an insight into imperial Rome the sight and sounds of the day, the characters are good too
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on 27 July 2014
The first in a series of books set in Rome at the time of Constantine..Paul Doherty's books are a joy to read.
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