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Catilina's Riddle Mass Market Paperback – August 29, 1994

92 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Saylor ( Arms of Nemesis ) has written another gripping and entertaining historical whodunit. Narrator Gordianus, disillusioned by the corruption of Rome circa 63 B.C., has fled the city with his family to live on a farm in the Etruscan countryside. But this bucolic life is disrupted by the machinations and murderous plots of two politicians: Roman consul Cicero, Gordianus's longtime patron; and populist senator Catalina, Cicero's political rival and a candidate to replace him in the annual elections for consul. Claiming that Catalina plans an uprising if he loses the race, Cicero asks Gordianus to keep a watchful eye on the radical. Although he distrusts both men, Gordianus is forced into the center of the power struggle when his six-year-old daughter Diana finds a headless corpse in their stable. Shrewdly depicting deadly political maneuverings, this addictive mystery also displays the author's firm grasp of history and human character.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Gordianus the Finder, Saylor's world-weary sleuth, strives to keep aloof from the complex politics of republican Rome. After years of investigative work for Cicero, Crassus, and others, Gordianus has become a gentleman farmer in Etruria, where he contends with more commonplace problems like drought and conniving neighbors. Suddenly Gordianus finds himself pulled back into Roman politics, and headless bodies begin to turn up on his farm. Saylor ( Arms of Nemesis , St. Martin's, 1992) carefully plots this novel and accurately depicts Roman society; his attentive study of Roman history and culture is evident throughout. The characters are believable and well delineated. Some minor criticisms: Saylor does not always take care to present historical data naturally, and several overlong conversations on Roman politics interrupt the flow of the story and are in fact historical minilectures directed at the reader. Nevertheless, this is recommended for general collections.
- James F. DeRoche, Alexandria, Va.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Fawcett (August 29, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080411269X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804112697
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,478,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Steven Saylor is the author of the ROMA SUB ROSA series of historical mysteries featuring Gordianus the Finder, set in the ancient Rome of Cicero, Caesar, and Cleopatra. The latest books in the series are two prequels--THE SEVEN WONDERS, which follows the 18-year-old Gordianus on his journey to the Seven Wonders of the World, and RAIDERS OF THE NILE, in which young Gordianus, living in Egypt, finds himself drawn into a plot to steal the golden sarcophagus of Alexander the Great.


Steven is also the author of the international bestseller ROMA: THE NOVEL OF ANCIENT ROME and its follow-up, EMPIRE: THE NOVEL OF IMPERIAL ROME. These two epic novels comprise a multi-generational saga that spans the first 1200 years of the city, from Iron Age trading post to the height of the empire under Hadrian.

Outside the Roman books are two novels set in Steven's native Texas. A TWIST AT THE END is based on America's first recorded serial murders, which terrorized Austin, Texas in 1885. The chief protagonist is young Will Porter, who later became famous as O. Henry. HAVE YOU SEEN DAWN? is a contemporary thriller set in a small Texas town; Steven calls it "autobiography done with mirrors."

Three "chapbooks" published as e-books collect Steven's scattered essays and short stories: A BOOKISH BENT; FUTURE, PRESENT, PAST; and MY MOTHER'S GHOST: THREE AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL ESSAYS & A SHORT STORY.

Steven's books have been published in 22 languages, and book tours have taken him across the United States, England, and Europe. He has appeared as an expert on Roman life on The History Channel, and has spoken at numerous college campuses, The Getty Villa, and the International Conference on the Ancient Novel.

Steven was born in Texas in 1956 and graduated with high honors from the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied history and Classics. He divides his time between homes in Berkeley, California, and Austin, Texas. When not using his brain, he likes to keep in shape running, swimming, and lifting weights.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Karina A Suarez VINE VOICE on May 5, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This new novel by Steven Saylor should really not be fitted under the umbrella of "mystery". It is, specifically, an extensively rich treatise about the politics of the late Roman Republic. There is no real mystery per se within the story, and the discourses of the diverse characters in it, though long, reel us into the vivid truth of roman politics. There's a lot of rhetoric, that science that roman politicians were so famous for, and lots of family life. Gordianus is getting on in years and, with the natural worries and sluggishness that come with being the head of a household, he takes a new dimension in the eyes of the reader. He is, after all, human and vulnerable.
Throughout the novel there is a lot of traveling - it bears mentioning that Gordianus is now a farmer and has retired, as such, to the Etruscan countryside. But just as he starts to settle in, quite a few headless bodies keep turning up in all sorts of places. Gordianus is also challenged when asked a favor from his old employer Cicero, now the Roman Consul. He has to play host to Lucius Sergius Catilina, a patrician of dubious reputation accused of conspiring against the Republic in order to establish himself as dictator absolute. But Gordianus cannot really quite convince himself that Catilina is such an impious character, being so charming, so full of life and, in some cases, of truth. But Catilina is also full of riddles. If only Gordianus could find out the truth...
Once again, the charming character of this ancient detective brings us into a world long gone but at the same time so full of the ideas that shaped our future as mankind. Delight yourself, once more, with a true, colorful story about Ancient Rome.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Nathan Crabtree on February 4, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Saylor gives us another powerful novel in Catilina's Riddle. I took Latin in high school and we studied the Catilinarian conspiracy. I had to memorize the first part of one of the speeches in the book: "Quo usque tandem abutere Catilina patientia nostra..."! I love how Saylor brings these great historical figures to life with his descriptive writing. With each novel in the series we also learn more about and grow to like Gordianus and his family. This novel shows artistry of words and intellectual scholarship together. That combination would seem to be hard to pull off, but Saylor does it well. Like other reviewers, I got a little bogged down at times with the intellectual scholarship, but it's not difficult to plug through. It's worth it to experience the action and revelation at the end. I am an even greater fan now and can't wait to start The Venus Throw.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Theodore J. Freeman on January 24, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the second year I have used Catilina's Riddle in my Latin III class. As we translate Cicero and Sallust, this book adds a little levity. Although it's a bit longer than I would like, it's an easy read. Saylor sheds some personality on Cicero, Catiline, and other historical characters in a way that Sallust could not. He pulls translations almost verbatim out of Cicero's "In Catilinam." Students are able to relate more closely to the plight of Catiline. The work even lends itself to some lessons in historiography (i.e., since historians base their perceptions of Catiline primarily on the works of Cicero and Sallust, how do we know what the "real" Catiline was like?). The plot of Gordianus and his misgivings about his inherited farm are secondary, but they keep the story moving along.
I find Saylor's work to lack the passion and insight that some other historical fiction writers seem to conjure. Mary Renault's works, for instance, stand alone. However, I had several students who simply could not put the book down. Anything that inspires a 15-year old to read like that deserves applaud.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By medina boy (jeffrey) on January 9, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Catilina's riddle" was an extremely interesting book which kept me interested page by page. The detailed characters allowed me to actually get into the book rather than just read the pages. Gordianus was a very different char. for his time. He treated his family and friends , even slaves, with the respect and love they deserved. He admired everyone until they gave him a reason to lose respect. Although he was somewhat of a smart character, I didnt think the book did a real good job of expressing this. The intro. made him seem extremely smart and somewhat of a detective master. If so then why couldnt he figure out the "headless body" case which was placed practically under his nose. Gordianus seemed to lack strong opinions for his new acquaintances which led him in the direction of first appearance judgements. Catilina "seemed" to be a good char. so Gordianus put full trust in him and even laid down his life to show respect towards him. I believe Gordianus' char. is what kept me interested throughout the book. I never knew what his next move was. He seemed somewhat unpredictable.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 22, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Catilina's Riddle" follows "Arms of Nemesis" in the Sub Rosa Series by Steven Saylor. Yet the two books show numerous differences.
"Arms of Nemesis" featured a son that would not speak, while "Catilina's Riddle" has a son that will not stop talking. "Arms of Nemesis" deals with arms; of war and of squids and of young lovers, while "Catilina's Riddle" deals with the heads of... well that is the mystery. In "Arms of Nemesis" women seduce men with beauty, in "Catilina's Riddle" men seduce other men with power. (This fact might catch unaware those not knowing that Saylor also writes gay erotica under the name of Aaron Travis.)
Still 'Catilina's Riddle" is a good book. Saylor has a veritable silver mine of a series, one that hopefully will keep producing for many more books. Though the rapid aging of the main character from book to book is worrisome, hopefully Saylor will go back and tell us of other adventures of The Finder. Or perhaps one of the sons is going to take over... we await.
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