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The first of Steven Saylor's Sub Rosa series of novels, the fictional characters of Gordianus the Finder and his family are introduced as they interact with some of Rome's most famous historical figures, like Julius Caesar, Marc Antony, Cicero, and others.
In the unseasonable heat of a spring morning in 80 B.C., Gordianus the Finder is summoned to the house of Cicero, a young advocate staking his reputation on a case involving the savage murder of the wealthy, sybaritic Sextus Roscius. Charged with the murder is Sextus's son, greed being the apparent motive. The punishment, rooted deep in Roman tradition, is horrific beyond imagining. The case becomes a political nightmare when Gordianus's investigation takes him through the city's raucous, pungent streets and deep into rural Umbria. One man's fate may threaten the very leaders of Rome itself.
"Saylor offers rich history with great imagination."—Seattle Times
"Saylor's evocation of ancient Rome is vivid and realistic. Within its compelling story, one tours Roman life from bottom to top in what is both good history and good mystery . . . A novelist whose future work will be worth reading."—Austin Chronicle
“Gripping . . . a combination of Hitchcock-style suspense and vivid historical detail.”—Pittsburgh-Post-Gazette
“Engrossing . . . contains all the elements that an entertaining mystery and also provides a view of life in ancient Rome.”—Booklist
“From the arrival of an articulate slave on the doorstep of sleuth Gordianus to the riveting re-creation of an actual oration by Cicero, Saylor's remarkable first novel takes the reader deep into the political, legal and family arenas of ancient Rome, providing a stirring blend of history and mystery, well seasoned with conspiracy, passion and intrigue. In the steamy spring of 80 B.C., fledgling orator Cicero is preparing the legal defense of Sextus Roscius, a wealthy farmer accused of the murder of his father. Things look grim for Sextus; it is well-known that his father had threatened to disinherit him in favor of his younger half-brother. Cicero engages Gordianus to get at the truth of the matter, and while the orator practices powerful speech-making, the investigator proves the aptness of his sobriquet, ‘the finder.’ Gordianus soon discovers that truth and mortal danger walk hand—in—hand through the twisting streets and the great forum of Rome. But he is unflinching in his quest for veritas in a story greatly enhanced by its vivid characters, including Cicero's clever slave Tiro; a mute street urchin and his widowed mother; a beautiful, enigmatic whore; Gordianus's spirited slave and lover, Bethesda; the aging dictator Sulla; and a dyspeptic but brilliant Cicero.”—Publishers Weekly
“From the papers of Marcus Tullius Cicero comes this first novel, a fictionalization of the immortal Roman orator's first important case—his defense of well-heeled farmer Sextus Roscius on the charge of killing his hated father. The narrator is Gordianus the Finder, hired by Cicero to dig up evidence, and so good at his job that he soon learns the pretext that lured the elder Roscius to his death—a summons from Elena, a young prostitute pregnant with a possible heir; finds where the murder was committed; unearths two witnesses who set him on the track of a brutal conspiracy; and uncovers some sordid truths about the Roscius family in time for Cicero to set off the expected courtroom fireworks.”—Kirkus Reviews
The slave who came to fetch me on that unseasonably warm spring morning was a young man, hardly more than twenty.
Usually, when a client sends for me, the messenger is a slave from the very lowest rung of the household--a grub, a cripple, a half-wit boy from the stables stinking of dung and sneezing from the bits of straw in his hair. It's a kind of formality; when one seeks out the services of Gordianus the Finder, one keeps a certain distance and restraint. It's as if I were a leper, or the priest of some unclean Oriental cult. I'm used to it. I take no offense--so long as my accounts