Macbain, Bruce - 'Roman Games'
Set in the reign of Emperor Domitian, this is the story of the investigation by Gaius Plinius Secundus of the murder of Sextus Ingentius Verpa. Sextus was a senator and also a well known informant of the Emperor and therefore a very unpopular man. The death of Sextus in an apparent locked room mystery, causes a great deal of concern to Domitian who is convinced that his life is in danger and that the death of Sextus is the first move in a conspiracy against him.
Gaius Plinius Secondus, known as Pliny, has recently married a much younger woman whom he idealises, and he tries very hard to walk the tightrope of safety in a difficult political situation. He is nominated to investigate the murder despite a total lack of experience and his own protestations. He is given until the end of the Roman Games - a period of celebration for the city, to solve the crime which is popularly thought to have been committed by one of the numerous slaves owned by the family. The rule is that if a slave is found responsible then all will die and Pliny is determined to save the slaves if he can. Meanwhile, Domitianís behaviour becomes more strange as his paranoia grows.
The wife and son of Sextus have their own motives and agendas for wishing him dead and are therefore suspected by Pliny, and the shadowy Temple of Isis seems to have a lot of influence in the house.
Pliny finds that Amatia, a visitor to the house, is very distressed and offers her sanctuary in his own home. Amatia, a widow, quickly makes a close relationship wth Calpurnia, Pliny's young wife who is in the later stages of pregnancy and feeling very vulnerable. Pliny welcomes the friendship and support and doesn't question Amatia's story of her reason for being a visitor of Sextus and his wife.
ROMAN GAMES is an interesting read, well researched. The characters are well drawn and keep the readers attention with sufficient background information but not so much that the action is slowed down.
This is the first in a series featuring Pliny and his family.
Read another review of ROMAN GAMES.
Susan White, England