this is the 162nd in my series of forgotten or seldom read book posts
Roman Blood by Steven Saylor, Ballantine 1993, paperback, mystery – 1st Gordianus the Finder
This was the first of Saylor’s novels I read, though I had read a short story by him, featuring this character, in the first Crime Through Time anthology. That story was enjoyable enough to prompt me to buy a copy of this and the second in the series, which then languished on the shelf for a considerable period of time until some whim or instinct send me to seek them out.
Gordianus is commissioned by Cicero, a young advocate who has taken the defense of a man accused of patricide, one of the worst crimes a Roman citizen can commit. The facts must be uncovered. Did Sextus Roscius murder his father? Certainly he hated him enough to do the deed, or rather to have it done, for the murder took place in Rome and Sextus was in the country at the time.
Gordianus digs, and travels to the country and digs some more, and visits the murdered man’s haunts in Rome, his brothel, the site of the murder. What role does the young whore Elena play in the puzzle, what role the violent cousins? For that matter what role the beloved ex-slave of the dictator Sulla himself?
Well written, enjoyable, with enough history and description of the city, people and times to inform without becoming didactic, this was an enjoyable read.
[addendum] Since I wrote that original review fourteen or more years ago, I’ve now read all of the series but the latest two, and I’m still pleased with each book. If you like historical mysteries, these are some of the very best.