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The Sacrilege: An SPQR Mystery Mass Market Paperback – May, 1992

4.5 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews
Book 3 of 13 in the SPQR Roman Mysteries Series

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A justly acclaimed detective series." -PUBLISHERS WEEKLY --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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 with his wife, Beth, in the little coal mining community of Pound, Virginia.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Avon Books; 1st edition (May 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380766272
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380766277
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 4.2 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,954,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
When I was a young assistant state attorney, a wise old lawyer told me that a prosecutor had to be like Caesar's wife--above suspicion. Good advice, but where did the aphorism come from? "SPQR III" gives a humorous answer to that question, and also gives us a rolicking good story of love, murder, and political intrigue.

One engaging aspect of the SPQR series is the ensemble of remarkable characters who reappear book after book. Quintus Caecilius Metellus the Elder, a battle scarred, no-nonsense soldier and politician who is both proud of and embarrassed by his eccentric son. Metellus Creticus, a dour man who happens to be one of the most powerful soldier-politicians in Rome. Titus Milo, a handsome, muscular organized crime boss who doesn't need weapons to defend himself. Asclepiodes, a talented physician who specializes in stitching up gladiators and performing autopsies. Fausta and Clodia, two women who are as heartless as they are beautiful. Publius Clodius, a reprobate who has only two ambitions--to become the most powerful man in Rome and to kill Decius Metellus the Younger.

In this book Roberts makes two exemplary additions to the ensemble: Julia, niece of Julius Caesar, love of Decius' life, and no mean detective in her own right. And finally, Hermes, a lazy, hungry, insolent slave whose cupidity sometimes interferes with his loyalty to Decius his master.

"SPQR III" follows the same plot as the first two offerings in this series. Decius investigates a sacrilege, becomes embroiled in a series of murders, uncovers a plot which threatens the very existence of Rome, dodges repeated attempts on his life as he pulls off a caper which saves the Republic, and flees Rome pursued by assassins. The mystery is not so much "whodunnit" as "how's Decius going to keep from getting himself killed?" It's all good fun.
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Format: Paperback
Decius Caecilius Metellus, scion of an old and noble Roman family, and a snooper with the best of them, is now a Senator. That only means he now can pry more easily into matters that bring him to the really dangerous attention of truly powerful opponents who are playing the lethal end game of the Roman Republic (c. 61 B.C). Here he comes up against the most powerful triumvirate Rome ever produced, but inexplicably he has the protective respect of Julius Caesar, one of its members. This story revolves around a sacred secret women's rite and why an up-and-coming popular rabblerouser, Clodius, would want to spy on it. As usual, from such a minor incident Decius gradually uncovers a colossal conspiracy against the Republic. I found it hard to keep track of the minor but crucial characters not only because they are numerous, but also because they frequently have similar names and certain of them are also busy changing those names during the action (practices explained in the highly useful end-glossary of the Latin terms Decius drops into the narrative).
One unique aspect of these Roman mystery stories is that they are purportedly narrated long after the events by Decius in his old age, thus allowing him amusing and droll comments (in the manner of Suetonius) benefiting from historical perspective. Roberts has a light touch on otherwise grim happenings, many of which he is not making up. His use of Caeasar's famous quote about how his wife must be above supicion is deliciously ironic. I'd guess the more one knows of classical history the more fun is this genre of mystery novels (cf. McCullough's biographical use of Caesar, Saylor's use of Cicero's law cases). The current St.
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Format: Paperback
What struck me immediately when reading this book is the incredible level of historical accuracy. John Maddux Roberts clearly knows his Roman Republican history well. Most of the characters in the novel were real people, and Roberts' characterizations of them closely match those found in texts of the day.
And it doesn't hurt that the story is engrossing, entertaining, and amusing. I can't recall the last time I enjoyed a book so thoroughly!
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By A Customer on August 17, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Buy this book! SPQR III is everything an historical mystery should be--full of accurate historical detail presented by a compelling main character/hero--and more. The modern sensibility that shines through is always witty and entertaining, never takes away from the story or suspension of disbelief, and captures perfectly the irony that intelligent Romans probably felt about themselves, the races they conquered and their 'empire.' It far surpasses the Lindsay Davis "Falco" mysteries that are becoming so rote and predictable that one hardly has to read the latest to know what is going to happen. Just one complaint--when are the first two volumes in the series going to become available to readers? I discovered Metellus the Younger, in his later years, in a collection of Historical Detectives, and was completely captivated. I had to do some detective work to track down these novels--and thank you Amazon. Considering some of the dreck being put on the market, how can SPQR and SPQR II, NOT be in print? "Wise up," as Decius would say.
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Format: Paperback
This one is the best so far of the series. Apart from the author's familarity with his main character, Decius, the supporting ensemble are all finely meshed and their personalities are comfortable to the reader. The continuing feud between Clodius and Decius makes for fine entertainment. The introduction of the slave Hermes is with a mildly irritating character, but, given he is in the fourth installment it is interesting to see how he will develop. JMR gives us a more stable influence on Decius' live with the daughter of Lucius Julius Caesar 'joining' forces but being tee-d up to be Decius' betrothal.
The plot centers around Clodius' infamous disruption of the Bona Dea rites in 62BC, and this time knowledge of the period doesn't impact on figuring out the murders. In all actuality, the murders are irrelevant and JMR hardly bothers to clear them up, Decius just mentally confirming his own theory as the facts. It spirals off into an interesting and, perhaps, not unbelievable, early view on the coming triumvirate. All the time JMR is quick to downplay and perhaps poke fun at the staid glorification of ancient Roman legends such as Caesar. For example Decius' hilarity at Caesar's famous remark about his wife Pompeia's non-complicity. It tends to humanise these historical figures.
JMR's novels are 'published' as Roman murder mysteries but they are so much more than that. A satirical look at a fascinating period of history (much echoed by Steven Saylor), his astute (and, in this installment, being given license for hubris) hero bounces through ancient Rome in a delightfully irreverent manner in his quest to know the facts about murders and the general shadowy political dealings of Republican Rome.
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