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Nox Dormienda: A Long Night for Sleeping (An Arcturus Mystery) Paperback – July 31, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Roman Noir Series

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Editorial Reviews


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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 323 pages
  • Publisher: Five Star (ME) (July 31, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594146667
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594146664
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.7 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,882,130 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bill Cameron on July 18, 2008
Format: Paperback
In Nox Dormienda, Kelli Stanley brings Roman Britain in the first century A.D. to life with deft writing and deep knowledge of the times. The story follows half-Roman, half-Briton Arcturus, physician and informal investigator to the Roman governor Agricola, as he delves into the death of a shady merchant. The trail leads through Londinium's seedy underbelly, shining a light in dark corners from the lowliest prostitute's crib to the highest seats of Roman power. The setting is crisply-drawn, the characters rich and engaging, and the mystery tight and enthralling, with Arcturus' wry humor and keen observations leading the way through this gritty page-turner. If you enjoy classic noir, or you enjoy your mystery with a classical setting, you won't be disappointed. It may be A Long Night for Sleeping, but don't plan on any sleep until you finish this gem.
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Format: Paperback
Set in 83 AD, this is the story of Arcturus, the official doctor of Agricola, the Governor of Brittania. When a beautiful woman tells Arcturus that the Emperor has sent a spy to Brittania to demand the resignation of Agricola, and that spy turns up dead, Arcturus needs to figure out what is going on in order to prevent a war.

Stanley debuts a new genre, Roman Noir, with this book. It combines noir with historical mysteries set in the time of the Roman Empire. The cynical detective, the femme fatale, and the seedier sides of town, all help create the feel of the classic detective stories of the 1940s.

I found the pace a little slow and the excessive use of Latin words confusing. There is a glossary in the back of the book and I needed to use it frequently to understand the Latin terminology used in the story. Readers familiar with these words would probably have less trouble with this.

I liked Arcturus and the internal struggle created by a native mother and a Roman father. This gave him the ability to walk on both sides of society and take us with him. Some of the secondary characters could have been fleshed out a bit more.

I would recommend this book for those interested in either Roman history or noir.

Armchair Interviews agrees.
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Format: Paperback
Author Kelli Stanley has a Classics education and an astonishingly wide range of interests and achievements. It's our good luck that one of her interests is noir fiction, or in this case the "roman noir," a nice little pun describing her wonderful new novel Nox Dormienda: A Long Night for Sleeping (An Arcturus Mystery). The book is set in 83 A.D. Londinium, a trading center in the Roman province of Brittania under the governorship of Agricola. Agricola is a little too successful and popular, and that's not good news for Domitian, the Roman emperor. Domitian sends a spy to watch Agricola, the spy is murdered, and Agricola's doctor Arcturus has just seven days to discover who murdered the spy to avert a serious civil war.

Stanley's knowledge of the Roman age gives NOX DORMIENDA an unexpected sense of immediacy, and her other love -- noir fiction -- brings a gritty, Sam Spade realism to the first-person story of Arcturus. Besides hardboiled dialogue, there is insider's scuttlebutt from two centuries ago. For example, speaking of Domitian, Arcturus says, "I'd met the Emperor just once. Even then he was more pedant than scholar. And he never laughed. Vespasian was a garrulous old sod who never minded a good joke, even at his own expense. But his slight, bald, correct-to-the-letter son believed in his own sanctity too much. He wasn't much of a god, still less of a man."

The book finishes with an informative author's note (Stanley begins, "I'm going to try to keep this what it claims to be: a note, rather than a thesis"). There is also a glossary and list of references in the back. And if that's not enough, you may want to check out Kelli Stanley's website, where I spent part of this rainy afternoon.

Stanley plans more books in the Arcturus series, which is a very good thing. Bene!

Linda Bulger, 2008
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Format: Hardcover
I like mysteries, and lately have read many of the mystery series set in ancient Rome such as John Maddox Roberts' SPQR series, Lindsey Davis' Marco Didius Falco series, and Steven Saylor's Gordianus the Finder series. Enjoy(ing) all of them! I'm also reading the very intense "Masters of Rome" series (not a mystery) by Colleen McCullough which is wonderfully written and covers the entired fall of the Roman Republic and the beginnings of the Roman Imperial age.

This stand-alone book looked interesting, and I did enjoy it. It is set in Londinium, in Roman ruled England, when the (real) Agricola was governor. The main character is a Roman citizen whose mother was British, ie, a "native" but whose father was an ex-Roman legionnaire. (the retired troops were usually rewarded in colonial land to farm, as the main character's father was.)

Arcturus (the main character) is the medical officer for the Roman legions stationed in Londinium and nearby areas and is Agricola's personal physician.

There is a fair amount about the "restlessness of the natives" ie the British, as their Druidic religious sites are being destroyed, and their native religion wiped out by the Romans. ( There is also a subplot which I wish had been more in depth about the soldier-cult of Mithras which spread all over the Roman Empire carried by the soldiers.)

Arcturus, being half-native has empathy for the natives and the old religion in way a typical Roman of his time would not have had. He can also speak their language and knows their beliefs.

I liked how the story stepped right into the middle of an ongoing life, unlike some books where the main character only comes to life with the first page of the book.
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