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    Review of A POINT OF LAW by John Maddox Roberts

    SPQR X

    Thamas Dunne Books, St. Martin's Press, May 2006

    Back from a successful tour of Cyprus, where he defeated pirates, flirted with Cleopatra, and made money, Decius Caecilius Metellus (the younger) is back in Rome--this time, up for election as praetor. His election seems assured--he comes from one of the noble families of Rome, is married to Caesar's niece, is on at least reasonable terms with Pompey, and is popular for having provided an exceptional series of games during his Aedileship. But one of the surest ways to political success is to accuse another politician of corruption and an unknown, one Fulvius, accuses Decius of exactly that. Decius is prepared to defend himself, but when he arrives at the court, Fulvius's body is already there--already dead. Now Decius is suspected of murder.

    When his doctor-friend examines the wounds and determines that Fulvius was killed by several men--slowly--Decius realizes that there is a conspiracy afoot. What he can't determine, however, is the target of that conspiracy. One thing is certain--while the Metellus family is important, they're not important enough to justify the extent of this conspiracy. Someone more important is the ultimate target, and Decius just happens to be the man who's in the way. Ignoring the usual Roman tradition of ignoring evidence and relying solely on family retainers and bribes, Decius investigates. He finds a secret cypher, a beautiful Egyptian woman, and rumors about a 12-year-old boy who might, possibly, be intended as Caesar's heir.

    Author John Maddox Roberts (see more reviews of mysteries by Maddox) continues his SPQR mystery series, set during the dying days of the Roman Republic. Although Pompey has rid the city of the criminal gangs which once fought for supremacy, conspiracies, plots, and murder remain common. Caesar remains in Gaul, but his suporters are active, and he sends hundreds of his soldiers home to vote in the election. The aristocratic party, which hates Caesar, is also active and its young men, including Cassius and Marcus Brutus, play cameo roles in Roberts's mystery.

    Strong writing, a falible but sympathetic protagonist, an interesting mystery, and one of the most fascinating periods in history combine to create a superior historical mystery. History buffs, in particular will enjoy Roberts's feel for the last days of the Roman Republic.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 9/10/06

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