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on 18 May 2001
"Last Seen in Massilia" is the latest offering of the Roma Sub Rosa series of historical investigative novels featuring down-at-your-heels Sherlockian, Gordianus the Finder. Now I've digressed about Saylor's brilliance many times before, especially in the commencement of the series (particularly the first three novels) and "Last Seen in Massilia" does not fail in achieving a 5-star total breezily, too. It follows the story of Gordianus and his ever persistently loyal son-in-law Davus (first introduced in "A Murder on the Appian Way" as a substitute of sorts for the hulking mass of adoration which was Belbo) travel to the besieged cityship of Massilia, girt by sea as it were, which holds the humiliated exiles of centralized Rome, including Milo. "Last Seen in Massilia" juxtaposes Gordianus and Davus in a series of delightful little escapades in attempting to gain access into this fortified city, as it was last claimed by an anoynymous tipper that his second adopted son (seen originally in "Arms of Nemesis") Meto has been murdered there. Gordianus is terribly frightened of what he may gain in the process of entering the seaborn port of Massilia, but what he finds is even *more* devastating... Davus makes a healthy return as a rather brilliant characterization as he and Gordianus provide alleviated good fun within some of the more dire moments. The wit is one of Saylor's gifts, and he does not prove to deteriorate in that department at all. Neither does he plot-wise. We are introduced to Hieronymous, Gordianus's singular companion, and in doing so we see what it is like for Gordianus to react with someone his own age, for any restricted amount of time (Cicero does not count, his disposition changes, ironically, with the tides). Who is the cowled monk of an abandoned monastery who seems to know much more than *it* is letting on...will Hieronymous achieve his own end, or live to tell the tale?...and what is the mystery with the alleged suicide of the township's citizen, a woman, and one with intriguing heritage?... Gordianus unravels the stitches in this classic whodunnit, which seeps with the palatial grandeur of ancient Rome being eventually obliterated by the Triumvirate. Another more pertinent question arrives: will Gordianus live to tell the truth?
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Steven Saylor's fascination with Ancient Rome began at an early age. A history graduate and former newspaper and magazine editor, he lives in Berkeley, California. His series of books about Ancient Rome and featuring Gordianus the Finder are extremely popular both here in England and also in America. Anyone who is a fan of Lindsey Davis will love these books too. Steven Saylor brings Ancient Rome to life, so much so that the reader can lose himself in the sights and sounds of the ancient city.

Gordianus the Finder, the investigator of crimes, a man whose skill and integrity have made him much sought after by some of the most important men in Rome. Men who may need a secret to be kept, men who need to know that when Gordianus is working for them he will be discreet and not susceptible to bribery.

The civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great is threatening to engulf the whole of the Roman world, neither man will give an inch and in the middle of all this Gordianus the Finder receives word that his son has died. Gordianus begins an immediate investigation into how his son came to die and during these investigations he witnesses the fall of a young woman from a precipice. All is not as it would seem to be and strange events begin to puzzle Gordianus . . .
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on 26 October 2001
Steven Saylor's latest outing with Gordianus The Finder takes Ancient Rome's Philip Marlowe to the besieged city of Massilia (present day Marseilles). This time however Gordianus' mission is personal - to find his son Meto who has been acting as a spy for Julius Caesar (whose forces are besieging the doomed city). Once inside the city Gordianus and his son in law are drawn into the claustrophobic intrigues of a dying city. Although the pace is initially leisurely, Saylor easily draws us into his superbly evoked ancient world and gradually an enthralling mystery tale unwinds.
The characterisation is excellent and at times poignant, the period detail and color is vivid and accurate, the story well plotted - with one or two suprises and twists in the tail!
Saylor is head and shoulders above other writers of historical mystery fiction and his novels just get better and better.
Read and enjoy!
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on 24 October 2000
I have read all his books in the Roma Sub Tosa series, and in a way I find this one, one of the best. The description of Massilia and the culture is marvelous. There is enough plot to keep the reader on edge. The ending is to some extent unexpected. I could not put it down and read it in one day ... now I have to wait again - sigh!
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VINE VOICEon 5 September 2002
Another brilliant Gordianus novel and one of the most compelling and touching so far. Transplanted from Rome to the besieged city of Massilia, Gordianus is desperately seeking his son, now rumoured dead and is pitched into the heart of the bloody Roman Civil War. To witness Gordianus' heartbreak and grief is deeply moving and Saylor delivers an ending laden with tragic pathos.
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on 22 September 2014
I have to confess up front to being a huge fan of this series. I love Gordianus and his family, and the style in which the books are written. More subtle than many of the other Roman sagas currently available, but still very firmly rooted in actual historical events, with much artistic license allowed of course!
This episode follows Gordianus to Massilia ( modern Marseilles) in an attempt to find his son, who has gone missing after some mysterious events, largely featuring in the preceding volume. I won't detail the plot, but suffice to say, there is intrigue and deception all round.
The reason that I have only given it four stars is for two reasons. Firstly, I had to suspend my disbelief more than usual on a couple of occasions. Secondly, for me, this story focussed a little too much on Gordianus' own family troubles. Although his family has always played a major role in the stories, they are normally 'supporting cast' if you like. Here they take centre stage, that spoilt it a little for me.
Having said that, I would still recommend the book, and if you have not read any of the series, I would urge you to start at the beginning, and read them in order.
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on 27 September 2001
A stimulating read taking us into the besieged city of Massilia (current day Marseilles). The plot line is very strong although with a few improbable twists! I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to any-one who has enjoyed the previous books in this series.
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on 12 February 2001
One again Saylor immerses the reader in a cocktail of political and historical intrigue as Gordianus the Finder searches for his son who has reportedly been killed. A worthy edition to the Roma sub Rosa series, cleverly mixing fact and tradition with a multi-faceted premise. Saylor never fails to deliver the goods and although this latest offering is slightly predictable in parts, the stunningly atmospheric settings and superb character invention combined with educated rendering of actual characters such as Julius Ceasar make this an absoulte must.
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on 4 April 2009
Having read all of Steven Saylors Roma Sub Rosa series so far my thoughts are that with this novel Saylor at last breaks from capable into brilliant storyteller. The plot is densely woven and vivid, so I can can very easily forgive the occasional straining of belief- they are always required by the plot and never get in the way. First we are brought to Massilia- a city state which has fascinating parralells to the later Republics of Venice and Florence. A mysterious and forgotten world which now springs strongly visualised and engagingly to life. What is the meaning of the Sacred stone, and the scapegoat? What are the ways of this proud, brilliant, and ultimately doomed city? Among these, Gordianus tries to discover the fate of his adopted son Meto, more frustrated than helped by 'fellow' Romans and obtuse Massilians. I read this book over two night shifts, and am already halfway through the next one. Just really powerful, absorbing story-telling. Its been some time since any book has pulled me in so much!
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sorry to all Saylor fans, but I can't agree: yes, Saylor has read his ancient sources but I don't think there's anything authentically Roman about the atmosphere of his novels. The early ones (Roman Blood, for example) at least had an energy that made them a perfect commute read, but the later ones like this are just dull. The characters (especially Davus, the handsome but dim gladiator) are stereotypes with no inner life and the private story set against a true background is always far less interesting than the story that isn't told.

Very early on in this book, one of Caesar's soldiers said that no Roman could even begin to pronounce a Greek name for a local goddess : this is supposed to be the last years of the republic when educated Romans were brought up on Greek and practically learned their alphabets by copying out Homer! Ok, so a legionnary might not have had an elitist education, but the idea of Greek being some kind of obscure, barbaric language is just ludicrous and made me throw the book down with annoyance - an obscure point, some might say, but to me it's an indication of the historical 'wrongness' of this series.
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