Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mystery Book Review: The Triumph of Caesar by Steven Saylor

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of The Triumph of Caesar by Steven Saylor. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

The Triumph of Caesar by Steven Saylor

A Gordianus the Finder Mystery

St. Martin's Minotaur (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-312-55699-3 (0312556993)
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-55699-0 (9780312556990)
Publication Date: July 2009
List Price: $14.99

Review: At age 64, Gordianus the Finder is retired but cannot resist the plea of Calpurnia, the wife of Julius Caesar, to investigate a potential danger against the state in The Triumph of Caesar, the 10th full length novel (there have been 2 short story collections) in this series by Steven Saylor.

But Gordianus wasn't Calpurnia's first choice as she thought he was dead, drowned in Egypt; she'd originally hired a man she learns is Hieronymous, an old friend of Gordianus, who has now been murdered. The dead man has left a large number of papers that Gordianus decides to use as a starting point for his investigation. Hieronymous had a decidedly mixed view of his good friend, as he writes, "Beginning to think dear old Gordianus was a bit of a puffed-up charlatan. This 'finder' business not remotely as difficult, or as dangerous, as he always made it out to be. The tales he used to tell, portraying himself as the fearless hero on a relentless quest for the truth! Half of those stories were probably made up. Still, if he's truly dead, as people say, I shall miss the old windbag ..." More pertinent to the case, Hieronymous makes clear he believes Caesar may indeed be in danger. "I dare not write my supposition even here; what if this journal were to be discovered? Must keep it hidden. But what if I am silenced? To any seeker who finds these words and would unlock the truth, I shall leave a key. Look all around! The truth is not found in the words, but the words may be found in the truth." Gordianus is determined to continue the pursuit of the truth that Hieronymous began, a quest that would be infinitely easier if he could only decipher the code left in the journal.

Fans of historical mysteries will delight in the characterizations of people and places, and the detailed descriptions of life in Rome at the time The Triumph of Caesar takes place. The mystery plot is a good one, and, as befits its genre, incorporates a historical event. In some, maybe many, ways the book seems symbolic of the reign of Julius Caesar, which (though its characters don't know it) is drawing to a close. Gordianus is as mentally sharp as ever, but his body is getting old and he has trouble with physical activity. There can't be too many more adventures for this aging sleuth, but in the meantime, however many there may be are sure to be as remarkable as Gordianus the Finder himself.

Special thanks to St. Martin's Minotaur for providing a trade paperback edition of The Triumph of Caesar for this review.

Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Synopsis (from the publisher): The Roman civil war has come to its conclusion – Pompey is dead, Egypt is firmly under the control of Cleopatra (with the help of Rome’s legions), and for the first time in many years Julius Caesar has returned to Rome itself. Appointed by the Senate as Dictator, the city abounds with rumors asserting that Caesar wishes to be made King – the first such that Rome has had in centuries. And that not all of his opposition has been crushed.

Gordianus, recently returned from Egypt with his wife Bethesda, is essentially retired from his previous profession of "Finder" but even he cannot refuse the call of Calpurnia, Caesar’s wife. Troubled by dreams foretelling disaster and fearing a conspiracy against the life of Caesar, she had hired someone to investigate the rumors. But that person, a close friend of Gordianus, has just turned up dead – murdered – on her doorstep. With four successive Triumphs for Caesar’s military victories scheduled for the coming days, and Caesar more exposed to danger than ever before, Calpurnia wants Gordianus to uncover the truth behind the rumored conspiracies – to protect Caesar’s life, before it is too late. No fan of Caesar’s, Gordianus agrees to help – but only to find the murderer who killed his friend. But once an investigation is begun, there's no controlling what it will turn up, who it will put in danger, and where it will end.

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