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    Review of THE YEAR OF CONFUSION by John Maddox Roberts

    SPQR XIII

    Minotaur, February 2010

    Julius Caesar is intent on making his mark on Rome. As both dictator and Pontifex Maximus, he has his hands full, so he calls on Decius Metellus to help with one key move, his calendar reform. The Roman calendar has slipped out of synch so badly that year-end festivals are now held in the fall. Caesar brought back a host of astronomers from Alexandria and they've come up with a new calendar, but Romans don't like change and don't like foreigners. It's up to Decius to make it happen.

    Calendar reform doesn't make Decius popular, but when astronomers start being murdered, he's the man on the spot to investigate.

    Decius's investigations take place against the backdrop of late Republican politics. Caesar has been generous and forgiving, meaning that Rome is full of his enemies. Rather than gratitude, those enemies are plotting against him and looking for every angle of attack. One of those angles is Caesar's Egyptian connection. And Romans have always feared Egypt. It's so wealthy that its ruler could practically own Rome, and now Caesar is its ruler.

    A host of historical characters, Caesar himself, Brutus, Casius, Marcus Antonius make their appearances as Decius tries to get the bottom of the murders. But it's the women, mothers and wives and lovers, who drive the story forward. In the meantime, Decius sees Caesar making more and more questionable decisions as he prepares for a war against Parthia...a war that Decius fears will go no better for Caesar than it did for his former collegue, Crassus.

    Author John Maddox Roberts (see more BooksForABuck.com mysteries by Roberts) writes a convincing story of Rome in the time of the dying Republic. Decius, with his love of wine and appreciation for beautiful women, makes for an interesting protagonist as well as for his viewpoint into the larger picture of Roman politics. Fans of Roman History as well as of Decius Metellus will enjoy this one.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 8/11/10

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