Roman Blood: A Novel of Ancient Rome (Novels of Ancient Rome)
This is set in the Ancient Roman Republic in 80BC, the time of rule by the dictator Sulla when Ceasar was young. The narrator and protagonist, Gordianus "the finder" is a kind of private investigator who is hired by a young Cicero to help his client accused of patricide. I couldn't help but smile at our introduction to Gordianus when he's found by Cicero's slave Tiro. He favors the young man with a demonstration of his deductive talents very reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes when he meets Watson. Besides Holmes I'd say there are echoes here of Chandler and Hammett in the gritty and dark elements which include rape and incest. As far as I can tell, Saylor seems to have done his homework on Ancient Rome. However, he doesn't quite make me feel I'm immersed in an ancient, alien mindset the way the best historical writers I've read such as Mary Renault and Colleen McCullough and as a mystery it didn't impress. The narration flowed well in the beginning, with a wealth of evocative historical detail, but I thought did begin to get bogged down in the middle and I found the ending unsatisfying. I admit, a political rant of Saylor in his Afterward rather soured me on trying more of his books--it made me feel he had a political agenda to his history and I doubt I will be able to read future books by him without seeing it through that filter.