Friday, August 01, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Buried Too Deep by Jane Finnis

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Buried Too Deep by Jane Finnis. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Buried Too Deep by Jane FinnisBuy from Amazon.com

Buried Too Deep by
An Aurelia Marcella Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-399-X (159058399X)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-399-9 (9781590583999)
Publication Date: June 2008
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): The spring of 98 AD is a time of optimism in the turbulent frontier province of Britannia. Business is brisk at the mansio (inn) that Aurelia Marcella runs with her twin brother Lucius on the road to York.

Then a wagon arrives bearing a local farmer with a grievous sword wound who is seeking treatment with the local Greek doctor. And Lucius appears at the mansio on a mission. When the farmer dies, the twins head for the coast to return the man to his family and to check out a shipwreck bearing valuable official cargo. A band of outlawed sea-raiders led by a Gaul are suspected of stealing it along with killing the farmer.

It all adds to the feuding that has erupted between the colonists and the natives. The natives claim the newcomers are stealing the best farmland, while the settlers accuse the locals of plotting rebellion against Rome. Both sides are using terrorist tactics: burning, kidnapping, and even murder. The trouble escalates and long-buried grudges are revived as counsellors, citizens, chiefs, and slaves mix in. But a subtle, personal agenda is at work as well—one or more of the combatants may have hired the Gauls to orchestrate the violence.

Review: Set at the end of the 1st century, Buried Too Deep, Jane Finnis' third novel to feature innkeeper Aurelia Marcella and her twin brother, Roman government agent Lucius, is a story of mystery, greed, kidnapping, and murder.

The Marcella's mansio (inn), The Oak Tree, is situated on the road to York in northern England (Britannia). The inn is frequented mostly by travelers on Roman imperial business, soldiers, government officers, and the occasional wayfarer. The location of the inn amidst vast arable lands also attracts people wishing to settle there and start their own farms. But the area already has two very wealthy landowners, living in residences built more like fortresses than homes, who want more land and with it more power. And then there are the Gauls who have been invading the region causing all sorts of havoc from destroying crops, herding sheep off their lands, burning buildings, kidnapping, and even murder. There's enough mayhem to keep even the most busy government agent busy, but Lucius must also content with a shipwreck off the coast rumored to contain a vast treasure, attracting the attention of everyone in the vicinity. And is a potential threat to Roman rule really a possibility?

It is easier to classify Buried Too Deep as more action adventure than mystery. It is always interesting to read novels set in a time period so different from today, and Finnis does a terrific job in bringing England under the influence of the Roman Empire to life. The characters are well drawn with full lives. The narrative is entertaining and in many ways, and especially in the way it develops and ends, this is a moving story. In short, readers should expect a wonderfully written historical novel but not much in the way of suspense.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of for contributing her review of Buried Too Deep and to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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