I live in Bristol UK literary fiction and crime are my books of choice and when not reading I like to run
There are two authors I admire in Historical Roman fiction: Robert Harris and Simon Scarrow. Harris’s Cicero trilogy is untouchable in its ability to indoctrinate the reader in the Republic of that period, equally Scarrow’s “Eagles of Rome” series gives authenticity to the Roman army in the field extending the reach of “Civis Romanus sum” to what they often viewed as uncivilized pagans…
Roman Blood by Steven Saylor introduces Gordianus, a type of Philip Marlowe of the ancient world. Does it work? In an answer no. Cicero is defending Sextus Ruscius a Roman citizen farmer from the province Ameria. In 80 BC he was tried for patricide by the senate and his case was successfully fought by a young enthusiastic advocate Cicero in his first major trial. Saylor uses these known facts as the basis of Roman Blood. The result is a rather overlong story with the uniquely named investigator Gordianus the Finder. The setting for this novel need not necessarily have been in Rome, it could have been King Arthur’s England, or Napoleon’s France. and in that respect, it is nothing more than a drab procedural police investigation. The final chapters do however show Cicero the dynamic advocate in full adversarial flow. This adds a dash of much needed excitement! and is of course helped by using the content from Cicero’s own memoirs.
So I end this review where I started. If you want an insight into Rome at the time of the Republic look no further than the superlative trilogy by Robert Harris, exciting, informative and so brilliantly executed. By comparison Roman Blood is a colourless long-drawn out second-hand murder investigation.