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SPQR XIII: The Year of Confusion: A Mystery (The SPQR Roman Mysteries) Paperback – January 18, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews
Book 13 of 13 in the SPQR Roman Mysteries Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Time is running out for Julius Caesar, whose assassination is little more than a year away, in Roberts's fine 13th whodunit to feature Sen. Decius Metellus as sleuth (after 2008's SPQR XII: Oracle of the Dead). As 46 B.C. draws to an end, Caesar is turning the Roman Republic upside down by ordering the institution of a new calendar and assuming even more dictatorial power. Names familiar from Shakespeare, like Brutus and Cassius, are already gathering to voice their dissent. Meanwhile, Decius looks into the deaths of two astronomers, whose necks were broken by a method that stumps Rome's best doctors. The astronomers' links to the unpopular Julian calendar and to Caesar's mistress, Cleopatra, provide multiple avenues for Decius's investigation, which his wife, Julia, once again assists. That readers know Caesar's ultimate fate in no way detracts from the enjoyment of this inventive historical. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“That readers know Caesar's ultimate fate in no way detracts from the enjoyment of this inventive historical.” ―Publishers Weekly

“Decius' first-person narrative is as sharp as ever, and the customary map and generous glossary will help transport readers back to ancient Rome.” ―Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

  • Series: The SPQR Roman Mysteries (Book 13)
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; Reprint edition (January 18, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312596111
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312596118
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #327,251 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Maddox Roberts has written numerous works of science fiction and fantasy, in addition to his successful historical SPQR mystery series. He lives in New Mexico with his wife.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is 45 BC and an increasingly regal Caesar is busily reorganizing Rome, including summoning a conclave of astronomers to reform the Roman calendar. When one of these astronomers is mysteriously murdered, Caesar assigns our hero, Decius Caecilius Metellus, to investigate. As always, Decius is a wide ranging and thorough investigator, traveling throughout Rome, interviewing everyone from Cleopatra to racing touts, turning up many overlapping mysteries and minor crimes until he succeeds in resolving the main mystery.

As usual in the series, Decius sets a light tone, bantering casually through Rome's highest social circles. However, behind the light mood, there are many darker notes. For example, it slowly becomes clear that Decius is now the last survivor of his formerly powerful family and he needs to move with more care than before. Decius gently touches on the various ambitious politicians orbiting around Caesar amidst hints of emerging conspiracies.

The murder mystery is adequate but the real fun comes from touring Rome with Decius, seeing its sights and studying its ways. A good four stars.

Quick historical note: Although Decius is fictional, the Caecilii Metelli were real. In their day they were one of the greatest of the plebian families, with at least ten "Quintus Caecilius Metellus"es becoming consul, but they vanished from history after siding against Caesar in the Civil War. Our fictional Decius may owe his survival to his happy marriage to Julia, a (fictional) niece of Caesar.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoy this series as much as any I've found. I like the mysteries themselves and the characters are interesting and well drawn - no cartoon-ish shortcuts. There is an underlying wry sense of humor that I find irresistible as well. As to the history, I have checked and double checked and Roberts knows his stuff. To the extent we have documentation, he's spot on. Where there's room for interpretation, he goes for it. His view of Caesar - the main character is married to Caesar's niece and has been part of the Senatorial class with Caesar all along the way - is pretty great. And I'd bet pretty darned accurate, if truth be told. I recommend this entire series to any mystery lover. If you like historical mysteries, you'll be delighted. and if you have a sense of humor, they are even better. I've found the SPQR series an interesting contrast with Steven Saylor's more serious books set in the same era. Frequently they have taken an opposite view of an historical character - but, while I enjoy the Saylor books - I more than enjoy SPQR. I buy them new, in hard cover when they come out and I can't give higher praise than that to any writer. Try them, you'll like them. I own them all and can't wait for more to come.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like its main character, the SPQR series is starting to show its age. Decius Metellus has lost a step or two and so too has the author. Other reviewers have noted the lack of a tie-in to major events--it's a serious detriment that makes this mystery far less engaging than most of the series. I would go so far as to say the ending was flat and disappointing.

It isn't bad, it just seems to have less of what Roberts usually provides: wit, pace and interesting twists. By all means give it a try, but wait for the paperback, or check it out of the library.
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Format: Hardcover
In the year 46 BC in Rome, Caius Julius Caesar is now the Director of Rome. He plans to rebuild the city making it grander as expected of the capital of a great empire. One of his pet projects is to create a new calendar using astronomers and astrologers from around the world. Thus he appoints Senator Decius Caecilius to oversee the project alongside of Cleopatra's head astronomer Sosigenes.

At first Decius is more concerned with Cleopatra being in the city than he is of a bunch of scientists creating a new calendar. However the situation turns dangerous when an astronomer Denades is murdered with his neck broken. He has strange markings on his neck but the doctor feels it it hard to judge how the killer made them. Even the Chief Physician in Rome does not how the killer was able to extinguish is prey. Caesar orders Decius to find the killer, which proves difficult to accomplish because all suspects are lying about something or concealing something.

As always John Maddox Roberts writes a fantastic Ancient Roman mystery that gives the reader a sense of the era and the culture during the time of Caesar. This enables the audience to envision the City-State Empire warped inside a whodunit. Decius is a great detective, whose investigation is all the more remarkable because of the limitations of sleuthing in the first century BC. Sub-genre fans will enjoy joining him on his inquiry.

Harriet Klausner
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Format: Hardcover
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 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.
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