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    Review of THE TRIBUNE'S CURSE by John Maddox Roberts


    Thomas Dunne, St. Martin's Minotaur, April 2003

    Roman Senator Decius Caecilius Metellus is back in Rome, standing for election, when the always dangerous city is convulsed by a Tribune's curse. The Tribune curses Crassus as he sets out for war against the Parthians (a war that ended with Crassus's death and one of the worst defeats that Rome had ever suffered), invoking a number of secret gods and the secret name of Rome itself. Everyone knows that knowledge of the true name constitutes power, and Rome must take extraordinary measures to purify itself. When the Priestly colleges come to Decius and insist that he bring them the name of the one who betrayed Rome's secret name, Decius is thrust into mystery, danger, and death.

    Author John Maddox Roberts (see more reviews of novels by Roberts) makes this turbulent era in Roman history come to life. From details of Decius's candidate toga (whitened with chalk to stand out), to the economics of being a Roman politician, to the scheming of the three men--Pompey, Crassus, and Caesar--who rule Rome, THE TRIBUNE'S CURSE drips with authenticity. Better yet, the history lesson is fully integrated into the story. Roberts delivers information as it is needed, involving the reader in the mystery and the history simultaneously.

    Decius, with his fears of poverty, his love of wine, and his loving but greedy wife, makes a sympathetic character--important since the story is told as a first person narative. He is positioned high enough in society to have access to information and contacts, yet low enough to be fair game for anyone who thinks that the truth would be better hidden.

    Fans of Roman history, historical mysteries, or fine writing won't go wrong with this compelling mystery.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 5/31/03

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