Friday, August 04, 2006

The Princess and the Pirates - John Maddox Roberts

My goodness, what a good read. John Maddox Roberts* was the moderator for one of the panels I was on at ConMisterio last month. Then ConMisterio died. I'm not sure there's a relation, but anyway, I bought one of his books. I wasn't sure it would be my cup of tea -- I've never read a novel set in Ancient Rome. Well, this one was great. No, better than that. It was GREAT!

The hero is a guy named Decius. The thing is, Decius is one of those instantly alive characters that you can listen to all day even if he's talking about a trip to the grocery store. He has a wry sense of humor and an appreciation of his fellow man that I would call deeply cynical if it weren't for the fact that he's just about always right in what he thinks about them. Not, mind you, that he thinks over-much about himself either.

Maybe just as good as the narrator/protagonist is the fact that I feel I've learned a lot about Ancient Rome and the Romans. Roberts whips up a whole ancient world to go with his ancient characters and by the end of the book you feel like you've learned about Ancient Rome because you've encountered real Ancient Romans. I'm assuming his books get taught to Classics majors in college. This is an education wrapped in a fascinating story. Screw Dan Brown**, if you want to feel like you've learned about the past, read this stuff.

Anyway, I can't say enough about Roberts' ability to draw life-like characters who you actually want to spend time with. Let me say that the murder and the Pirates of the title are cleverly interwoven. The plot is intricate, but never gets in the way of itself. The reader is pretty much carried along joyously on the wine that flows so free throughout the story.

I have other things on my TBR pile, but when I see Mr. Roberts in Madison, I will definitely be buying another book.

* No website that I could find.
** Not an actual suggestion. And please don't tell him I said that. I have a wife and a small dog to protect.


Blogger Patrick Shawn Bagley said...

Roberts' SPQR series is a lot of fun to read.

Steve Saylor also has a mystery series set in ancient Rome, about a character called Gordianus the Finder.

August 04, 2006 9:21 PM  

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