What do you get when you mix ancient Roman history with a detective novel with the atmosphere of Raymond Chandler? You will get Roman Blood – A Novel of Ancient Rome, the first in a series of detective novels (Roma Sub Rosa) set in ancient Rome, authored by Stephen Saylor.
I’ve always been an avid reader of history, from ancient times through the 20th Century. I’ve also enjoyed detective novels, with Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe being a particular favorite. So I was delighted when I stumbled onto Saylor’s novel through one of my e-book recommendation newsletters.
Let’s start with the mystery. “Detective” wasn’t a recognized occupation in the first century B.C., when this series is set. Instead, the protagonist is Gordianus the Finder. who describes himself as “wretched Gordianus, explorer of dung heaps and infiltrator of hornet’s nests.” In this novel he is hired by the orator and lawyer Cicero to find out the truth for the defense of Sextus Roscius, who is accused of arranging his own father’s murder. Obviously, Cicero is a real historical figure and this was an actual court case with a written record that has survived over the years.