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Nox Dormienda: A Long Night for Sleeping (An Arcturus Mystery) Paperback – July 31, 2008
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Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award Winner
Macavity Award (Sue Feder Memorial Historical Mystery Award) Finalist
" ... takes the reader on a colorful tour of this singular culture high and low, from jails and brothels to the corridors of power. First-timer Stanley is sure-footed and enthusiastic about history ... and crafts a satisfyingly intricate puzzle ..." -- Kirkus, May 15, 2008
"From first page to finis, NOX DORMIENDA by Kelli Stanley is chock full of chills, thrills, and breath-taking adventure. Fueled by fascinating characters and rich details from Londinium in 83 A.D., this unforgettable tale brings the past eerily alive while leaving you hungering for the next book in what surely will be an exciting series. Stanley is a terrific writer." -- Gayle Lynds, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Last Spymaster
"In NOX DORMIENDA, Kelli Stanley has created a startling new genre of mystery: the Roman noir. Written in a fresh and uncompromising voice, here is a novel as evocative of ancient times as it is masterful in crafting a mystery as entangled and ingenious as any modern story. I look forward to vanishing again into the world she has created. Don't miss your chance to do the same." -- James Rollins, New York Times bestselling author of The Judas Strain
"NOX DORMIENDA (A LONG NIGHT FOR SLEEPING) nigh cost me a night's sleep! A Roman noir ... and with a depth of scholarship that should be off-putting but works beautifully. The language is a sheer treasure ... from classical to sheer class and for a book that is so meticulously researched, it has a wild and wondrous sense of humour. What a series this is going to be! Imagine Ellis Peters re-written by Elmore Leonard and you'll have some notion of this gem of a novel--and it moves like a gladiator on speed." -- Ken Bruen, Barry and Shamus Award-winning author of Priest
... the author, with her background in classics and archaeology, has a good sense of time and place. The staccato movement of the narrative is very reminiscent of the hard-boiled detective genre she is trying to reinvent as "Roman noir" ... -- Library Journal, July 15, 2008
The Roman conquest of Britain continues to interest writers, and Stanley has come up with a different angle, focusing on Arcturus, a half-British, half-Roman doctor who is the physician of Agricola, the provincial governor. A Syrian spy, widely believed to be carrying a message terminating Agricola's tenure, is found dead. But where is the message? And why was he carrying all this money? There's lots of action, with threads involving Arcturus' servant, the spy's reluctant fiancee, a badly run brothel and the secret lives of those who follow the "old" (Druidic) religion. There's also plenty of blood, cruelty and political machination in this well-done story that will keep the reader guessing for many chapters. -- Roberta Alexander, Contra Costa Times/San Jose Mercury News, July 13, 2008
From the Inside Flap
Saturnalia is almost over, but drunks and gamblers aren't the only denizens of Londinium knocking on the doctor's door. The winter of 836 a.u.c. (83 A.D.) is cold and bitter. The year's final exhale will be colder still.
Arcturus--the half-native, half-Roman doctor and occasional problem-solver--has seen much in his thirty-three years. He's risen--despite not playing the politics game. He is Agricola's doctor. And Agricola's friend. And Agricola is the governor of Britannia.
Now, on a frozen December afternoon, he learns the governor is in trouble. The Emperor Domitian has sent a spy to Britannia--a spy carrying papers demanding Agricola's resignation. It doesn't make Arcturus any warmer to know that the spy, a Syrian named Vibius Maecenas, is betrothed to the woman who brings him the story. The woman--Gwyna--is as unforgettable as her information.
When Arcturus sends his freedman Bilicho to follow her, he finds himself, hours later, in an underground temple, staring at a shapeless hulk on top the altar. It's the trussed, dead body of Maecenas, with a gaping hole in place of a throat.
If Arcturus doesn't find out who murdered him and why, Domitian might think the governor is responsible. The fat, dead Syrian will ignite a civil war, one hot enough to thaw the ice in frozen Britannia.
He has seven days to unravel fact from story, truth from rumor, and motive from murder. He must walk a carnival landscape of fear and uncertainty, strewn with sadistic pimps, drunken whores, well-bred politicians and four more deaths.
Nox Dormienda is a nightmare vision of Roman Britain, a lightning-paced historical mystery that blends hardboiled prose and impeccably researched historical background. It is the first novel of a new series and a new genre of mystery fiction: it is Roman Noir.
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Top customer reviews
Stanley writes with confidence, obvious knowledge, and a dry humor that kept me engrossed and smiling throughout. The world of Roman noir is skillfully created, and even at times when I set the book down, no matter which chapter, the next time I picked it up the world was there in its full richness. I didn't have to remind myself of where I was. Stanley is a master at using the senses to her advantage in creating living, breathing scenes. She never misses a beat, her writing is tight, and her plot well constructed. It's plain to see why this novel won the Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery award.
Arcturus is a trusted doctor to the governor, Agricola. But he does much more than doctoring. Due to his confidential relationship with the governor, Arcturus is soon swept up in solving the mystery of the violent death of a Syrian man. This man was delivering an important letter to the governor from the emperor. The letter contains information that begs a reply--without a reply, civil war threatens. But the letter is missing, the money is missing, and the Syrian's fiancée is left unattached.
As Arcturus heeds the governor's request to find the murderer, he uncovers a murder plot more complex than he could ever imagine. Everyone in his household is put in danger, including the woman who has finally unthawed his heart. He has seven days--seven days to find a murderer, protect his governor, and prevent a civil war.
I'm looking forward to Stanley's next installment of the Arcturus series, Cursed. Also, her upcoming book: City of Dragons (February 2010).
The author credibly managed to convey life in Roman Britain from the sights & sounds to the smells, the food, drink, & clothing. She also managed to include political intrigue. I liked the protagonist, Arcturus. The secondary characters are believable; the villain is predictably vile. The ending is satisfactory with all the loose ends tidied up.
I am looking forward to the 2nd novel in this series, "The Curse-Maker."
I have only one complaint that has nothing to do with the quality of the writing. Rather my complaint is about the Kindle formatting because there is no easy way to access the glossary which is a must given the number of Latin words.
After some thought, I decided I needed to update my initial review.
I read that some readers complained the novel was like reading a Sam Spade novel in an ancient Rome setting. That was the author's point. She is attempting to start a new sub-genre of the historical mystery that is in itself a sub-genre.
The dialog does appear modern; however, as I read this novel, I was prepared to suspend disbelief. It is very difficult for us in the 21st century to know exactly how the average Roman citizen spoke with their use of idioms & colloquialisms. Furthermore, it seems to me that regional dialects that must have infused daily language add to the difficulty a modern writer has in trying to recreate a time period that has been extensively studied.
I was more interested in how effectively the author recreated the time period in terms of characterizations & settings, & with this in mind, I believe that Ms. Stanley achieved her goal.
You get the feel for the bureaucracy, the life-and-death of politics during a time of emperors, and the clash of cultures that the slow fusion of ancient Roman and ancient Britain worlds created during the colonial expansion.
You get immersed in ancient Romano Britain immediately, feeling the cold and mud and experiencing the opulence as well as the dregs of the society.
Arcturus is a well-done character and you easily empathize with his walk between worlds, but my main issues with him are both specific - in this book he falls fast - unbelievably so - for nothing more than a pretty face for a man old enough to know better. I spent pages sure he was going to reveal he really hadn't fallen but instead it was just a ploy, but it turned out, nope. Put a pretty blonde in his path and that's all it takes; her personality doesn't matter.
That was disappointing.
My other issue with him is to wit: the ancient pagan Roman empire lasted nearly 700 years. The people were steeped in their pagan religious beliefs from sunup to sundown and archaeology has shown time and again the devotion of people toward their pagan gods, yet Arcturus is yet another cynical unbeliever like some modern hardboiled gumshoe. Which I find typical of many of these 'ancient detectives' with few exceptions. It's almost as if writers don't want to give any credence to ancient belief systems. It'd be nice to show a believer every once in a while.
The mystery itself is compelling and draws you in where everyone is suspect and everyone has a motive and the atmosphere is gloomy and ominous.
I find myself re-reading this time and again.