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The Curse-Maker + City of Ghosts: A Mystery (A Miranda Corbie Mystery)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books (February 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312654197
  • ASIN: B007SRX9HY
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,971,869 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Tourists visiting the Roman baths in Bath, England, can see tiny clay tablets on display, tablets that carry curses ranging from trivial (May the one who stole my gloves in the baths last week get a rash) to homicidal. In this second in her Roman noir series (the first, Nox Dormienda, 2008, won the Bruce Alexander Award for best historical mystery), Stanley seizes on this curiosity and crafts an entire mystery around the murder of a man who inscribed curses for a living. Set in Brittania in the first century CE, during the reign of the emperor Domitian, the novel stars Arcturus, a Roman physician, and his wife (who gives considerable help to his solving mysteries). Here, Arcturus and wife Gwyna travel from Londinium to the spa town of Aquae Sulis (Bath) because Gwyna is suffering from an unknown ailment that has all the earmarks of contemporary depression. Arcturus himself is suffering from the guilt of not being able to save the young son of General Agricola. As soon as the two arrive, they see the spectacle of a body in the Sacred Spring—the body belongs to a curse maker. Besides writing an engrossing mystery, in which the first murder leads to a typically Roman orgy of revenge, Stanley serves up fascinating and never heavy-handed information on Roman life. For fans of Steven Saylor’s Roma Sub Rosa series. --Connie Fletcher

Review

"Terrific noir. The flavor and setting shine, and Stanley has the knack for creating an atmosphere that feels as if she has transcribed actual historical events.... Stanley is definitely one to watch."
--RT Book Reviews
 
"Besides writing an engrossing mystery ... Stanley serves up fascinating and never heavy-handed information on Roman life."
--Booklist (Starred Review)
 
"Well-plotted ... all will wish this historical series a long life."
--Publishers Weekly
 
"Captures the details and rhythms of daily life in the ancient empire."
--Kirkus Reviews
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

An award-winning author of crime fiction, Kelli Stanley's first novel in the Miranda Corbie series, CITY OF DRAGONS, was met with overwhelming critical acclaim. It won the Macavity Award (Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award) and was a finalist for the prestigious Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Shamus Award. CITY OF SECRETS, her second novel in the series, won the Golden Nugget Award for best mystery set in California. CITY OF GHOSTS--the long-awaited third Miranda Corbie book--will be published August 5th, 2014.

Stanley also writes a highly-praised series set in Roman Britain, the latest of which is THE CURSE-MAKER. Her debut novel, NOX DORMIENDA, won the Bruce Alexander Award for best historical mystery of 2008.

She makes her home in Dashiell Hammett's San Francisco, earned a Master's Degree in Classics, and loves jazz, old movies, fedoras, Art Deco and speakeasies.

For more information about Kelli's books, please visit her website at http://www.kellistanley.com

About CITY OF GHOSTS:

June, 1940.

Art. Spies. Murder.

For Miranda Corbie, private investigator and erstwhile escort, there are debts to be paid and memories-long-suppressed and willfully forgotten-to be resurrected.

Enter the U.S. State Department and the man who helped her get her license. A man she owes. And playing along may get her a ticket to Blitz-bombed England, if she survives ...

Through sordid back alleys and art gallery halls, from drag dress nightclubs to a Nazi costume ball, Miranda's journey into fear takes her on the famed City of San Francisco streamliner and a ticket to Reno, Nevada, the Biggest Little City in the World ... where she finds herself framed for a murder she never anticipated.

Miranda must learn the difference between reality and illusion, from despair to deceit and factual to fake, as she tries to get her life back ... and navigates a CITY OF GHOSTS.

Miranda's back. And noir will never be the same.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on February 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
In the latter half of the first century, the Roman Governor of Britannia Agricola's physician Arcturus goes on a needed vacation. However, the thirtyish Arcturus is called back to work rather quickly when a homicide occurs; as his other job is investigating crimes that might impact his employer.

Someone strangled scribe Rufus Bibax, who mostly wrote down curses. His corpse was found floating in in a reservoir in Aquae Suli. Inside the victim's mouth is a piece of lead etched with the inscription Ultor (the Avenger). Arcturus quickly learns of other unsolved recent murders and soon more people die by what the physician begins to believe is a second killer. The cases seem to focus on a nearby mine, but who the Avenger or Avengers are remain unsolved.

The second Ancient Britannia mystery (see Nox Dormeinda) is a superb whodunit that provides readers with insight into the use of curses, apparently a thriving business of the times. The engaging investigation is fast-paced once Arcturus is on the case or as he fears and curses cases; he understands two killers is not twice the fun. Armchair travelers will enjoy feeling a sense of being in first century Roman Britain with Arcturus as the tour guide.

Harriet Klausner
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Judith Starkston on February 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Curse-Maker, set in Bath during the Roman period, blends a twisting, exciting mystery with a vivid Roman setting. Stanley combines her background as a classicist with a passion for noir mystery. Her "sleuth," Arcturus, the doctor for the Roman governor of Britannia, narrates in a hard-edged Dashiell Hammett style. Arcturus arrives in Bath with his beloved but troubled wife Gwyna in order to vacation and restore his wife's well being. He stumbles instead upon a dead man in the sacred spring outside the baths--that being only the first of many things he discovers that are rotten in Bath.

The romantic relationship between Gwyna and Arcturus intertwines with the unraveling of the mystery and provides depth to their characters. The Roman politics and corruption revealed in the mystery are compellingly developed and, like many things Roman, echo modern life while retaining their uniquely Latin flavor. Stanley skillfully creates a wide cast of characters--some we like, others are delightfully despicable. I certainly kept turning the pages. For more reviews of historical mysteries and historical fiction go to [...]
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By gilly8 on September 28, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm not sure why this book is getting such high reviews. Stanley is not the first writer to tie the "noir" concept into historical fiction, though though to read the reviews, you'd think so.

I read a lot of historical fiction, and I like those set in Ancient Rome, as well as ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, the Middle Ages, the Regency and Georgian eras...What Stanley gives us are modern people: thinking, talking stereotypes who wear togas and every so often refer to Roman gods and goddesses.

This is the kind of book where you know immediately who is a "good guy" and who is a "bad guy" in part by how they look. Apparently, for the most part, only handsome men and beautiful women are "good"....

The plot was dull, the characters were cardboard, and the subplot (the reason for the main character's wife's depression) pretty obvious. As an example, the sentimentality about an overworked Mule doesn't fit Roman attitudes toward working animals (or slaves).

For some better historical Roman mysteries, based on research into the lives and culture of the time, as well as being interesting mysteries, and well written, try John Maddox Roberts' SPQR series (must be read in order!). SPQR stands for the "Senate and People of Rome" and was much like we use "USA"...)

The Course of Honourby Lindsey Davis is an excellent stand alone book based on a true story about a slave woman who was the lover of the Emperor Vespasian. Davis also has a nice series with the detective Marcus Didius Falco set in the same time period as SPQR; both are set toward the end of the Roman Republic.

Gillian Bradshaw has many books set in various time periods.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By L. J. Roberts VINE VOICE on March 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
First Sentence: The man was floating, serene, tunic swirling in the undulating waves like clouds against a blue sky.

Arcturus, a Roman physician, and his beautiful wife, Gwyna, have come to Acquae Sulis (Bath) for a holiday and to repair the breach in their marriage. Before they even arrive at their residence, they come across a dead body of a curse-maker floating in the sacred bath. Instead of a holiday, Arcturus is drawn into the world of curse-makers, deception, attempted seductions, attempts on his and his wife's lives, and many more murders.

Kudos to Ms. Stanley for the author's notes, a cast of characters--albeit frustratingly incomplete--and a glossary. They were tremendously helpful.

Ms. Stanley has written a book set in Ancient Times that makes us realize how little some things have changed. Even with the different customs and religion the plot, and certainly the motives, was quite contemporary and I had to keep reminding myself of the period in which the story was set. Even the reference to Stonehenge already being ancient during this time, didn't help cement the feeling of the period. While with some books set in an earlier period are able to capture the feel of that time through the syntax of speech, that isn't possible with classical Latin, but it did leave me with a feeling of the story being somewhat anachronistic.
On the other hand, there was so much to like about this book.
Arcturus is a wonderful character. His style is brusque with a wry humor; he's both intelligent and tough, he is kind and loves his wife. Gwyna may be beautiful but is certainly not vapid or weak. The marriage may be going through a rough patch, but it will be resolved. The relationship is a critical element of the story and is used to enhance to story.
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