Roman Whodunnits - Rosemary Rowe

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Libertus Mysteries of Roman Britain

The series is set in Roman Britain in the period between 183 and 190 AD, when the increasingly unbalanced Emperor Commodus wore the Imperial Purple and ruled the Empire with a capricious hand. (He renamed Rome 'Commodiana' in his own honour, for instance, and - instead of waiting to be deified after death, like his predecessors- claiming to be a living deity, a reincarnation of the hero-god Hercules.) Libertus, the 'detective' in these stories, is a mosaicist - an expert in puzzles and patterns. A freed slave - though once a Celtic nobleman - he lives in the Roman town of Glevum (now the modern city of Gloucester) but his adventures, under the aegis of his powerful Roman patron, sometimes take him to other areas of what was then Brittania, the most northerly outpost of the Roman Empire. His profession, and his position as a favoured protege of an influential man, give him entrance into a wide variety of homes and situations, where - through him- we encounter many different elements of Romano-British life: from medicine to chariot-racing, from temples to bath-houses, from political intrigue to domestic treachery, and from the wedding customs and social rituals of the elite to eel-fishing and the shadowy half-world of the unregarded poor.

Books Available

The Ides of June - NEW !

This is a compelling new mystery for Libertus, set against the backdrop of the Roman Empire in turmoil...An astonishing new order has usurped power in Rome and the reverberations are reaching even to Glevum, where the legion is preparing to depart. Libertus' wealthy patron, until recently one of the most influential men in the Empire, finds himself not only deprived of the privilege and protection he had previously enjoyed, but under actual threat both from the political establishment in Rome and from an anonymous and vindictive enemy much closer to home. The murder of another councillor, similarly placed, makes the matter urgent. Libertus, whose humbler status affords obscurity, is charged with spiriting Marcus' young family away to a place of safety. But his task will bring problems of its own, as Libertus uncovers a grisly secret and an ancient crime - with ramifications stretching to the present day. Order a copy from Amazon!<

The Fateful Day

Libertus is passing the villa of his patron, Marcus Septimus Aurelius, when he sees an elaborate travelling carriage which has pulled up outside and is now blocking the road. Recognising that this may be an important visitor, Libertus approaches the carriage, intending to explain that Marcus is away, gone to Rome to visit his old friend Pertinax, who has recently been installed as Emperor. However, for his efforts, Libertus instead receives a torrent of abuse and the carriage-driver almost runs him down as he departs. Libertus is badly shaken, but goes back to the villa the next day to find out why there was no gate-keeper in evidence to deal with the stranger. There he finds a gruesome discovery: the man is dead and hanging in his hut, and none of the other house-slaves are to be found. Worse things are to follow as news arrives from Rome which will turn the lives, not only of Libertus and his family, but the whole Empire upside down...Order a copy from Amazon!<

Dark Omens

Libertus accepts a contract to install a pavement for Genialis, a self-important citizen from a nearby town, in the house of the customer's intended but unwilling and young bride, Silvia. However, the winter is exceptionally severe, and although the mosaic is laid in time to earn the promised bonus, Genialis goes missing in the snow before payment can be made. Meanwhile, at an important feast, the sacrifice is spoiled as an aged priest lets go of the sacrificial ram - and when news arrives that the Emperor is dead, it seems that these dark omens are being realised. The subsequent discovery of not one, but two mutilated corpses only adds to this. Who holds the answer to the mysteries? Everyone had motive; Libertus attempts to solve the mystery against a backdrop of superstitious fear of auguries, and public riots following the confirmation of the Emperor's death.....Order a copy from Amazon!<

A Whispering of Spies

A gruesome discovery leads Libertus on a dangerous quest . . . - Wealthy Volus, ex-lictor to the Imperial Governor of Gaul, is retiring to the town of Glevum. Libertus is sent to his new apartment, where he is informed that one of the ex-lictor’s treasure carts has been intercepted, the guards and horses brutally butchered. When his actions are misinterpreted by a network of spies, Libertus is suspected of involvement in the massacre and marched to the garrison to await trial. But after daringly escaping, Libertus embarks on a dangerous quest to discover the truth . . .Order a copy from Amazon!<

The Vestal Vanishes

The marriage of a former vestal virgin is always an important event, so the anticipated arrival of such a bride in Glevum is the excuse for an even more lavish banquet than usual on the Emperor's birthday feast. However, when Audelia's covered carriage finally arrives, the lady in question is nowhere to be found. Libertus investigates and makes a gruesome discovery, suggesting that Druid rebels may have been involved. But when another lady disappears, Libertus finds himself in a race against time to ensure the safety of the 'vanishing vestals'....Order a copy from Amazon!<

Requiem for a Slave

The eleventh book in the Libertus Mystery of Roman Britain series - Libertus has an important order to fulfil for Quintus Severus, who has commissioned a new mosaic. But when Lucius, the pie-maker, is found dead in Libertus’ workshop, and Libertus’ faithful slave Minimus is missing, he is once again dragged into a criminal underworld. Can Libertus find Minimus, clear him of the murder, and discover who really killed the pie-seller, and why? The omens aren’t looking good . . . Order a copy from Amazon!<

Death at Pompeia's Wedding

This is the tenth book in the "Libertus Mystery of Roman Britain" series...Libertus attends a society wedding as his patron's representative, but before the ceremony can begin the father of the bride is discovered dead - poisoned - after testing the wedding wine. Pompeia, the bride, hysterically declares that she has caused the death, but Libertus believes otherwise, and is retained by the potential bridegroom (who needs the substantial dowry) to prove her innocent. His investigations uncover hidden tensions in the house and when another guest, Antoninus, is discovered a little later murdered at his home, moments before Libertus was due to call on him, events take a different and more sinister turn.
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`A traditional country house mystery translated to the Roman world ,even featuring the mandatory body in the bibliotheca. . . There are charming details about life on the fringes of the empire' - The Independent

'A considerable achievement' - The Times

'The story is agreeably written, gets on briskly with it`s plot, and ends with a highly satisfactory double-take' - The Scotsman

"....An intriguing detective novel, with an unusual and interesting setting and a humorous touch."

A Mystery of Roman Britain. Libertus a free pavement maker has a reputation for solving mysteries. When his patron asks him to investigate a murder he can't refuse.

It is AD 186, and Britain is the northernmost province of the hugely successful Roman Empire. In Glevum (modern Gloucester), Libertus, a freedman and pavement-maker, lives under the patronage of Marcus Septimus. When a body is found in the furnace room of a nearby villa, and identified as that of Crassus Germanicus, a retired centurion, Marcus asks for Libertus's help. A slave is missing and the solution to the mystery seems obvious. But Libertus soon discovers that Germanicus has many enemies, and he must use his mosaicist's skill to put together the pieces of a most deadly puzzle.
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Murder in the Forum

'Demonstrates Rowe's pithy command of the Roman sleuth genre.... A considerable achievement' - THE TIMES

When Perennis Felix, favorite of the Roman Emperor and. would-be enemy of all, heralds his arrival in Glevum (modern Gloucester) with the arbitrary execution of a, slave, there are few who dare question his actions. Indeed, a feast in the Roman's honour is universally approved in the cause of self-preservation Libertus, freedman arid mosaicist -- and, therefore, an expert in puzzles and patterns and his patron, Marcus Septimus, are among the reluctant citizens at the evening celebration. Libertus, who is a freed Celtic slave, and thus an outsider to the brutalities of the conquerors, is thankful for his lowly status as he is sequestered to the back of the room while more esteemed guests, his patron among them, are: subjected to the trials of Felix's misplaced humour. But the festivities come to a sudden and disturbing end when the Roman appears to choke on a nut and dies in front of a stunned gathering. And it is not long before the ever- vigilant Libertus notices the mysterious disappearance of two guests - one of whom he has very good reason to suspect is not all he seems to be.
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A Pattern of Blood

A Pattern of Blood is the second book in the series featuring the Roman pavement-maker Libertus. This book follows on from her first book The Germanicus Mosaic. Corinium is a bustling town with the usual vagrants and pickpockets, so it comes as no surprise when Libertus is a witness to a stabbing. The victim is wealthy decurion Quintus Ulpius. Luckily for him, a misfortune is avoided as his personal physician is at hand. However, it soon becomes clear that Libertus has not heard the last of this matter. He is ordered by his wealthy benefactor Marcus Septimus to look into the stabbing. Things appear to have taken a turn for the worse for not long, after Libertus arrives at Quintus's mansion the decurion is found fatally stabbed. So many people had reason to kill him. Could it have been his son Maximilian who feared being disinherited? Alternatively, the jealous husband whose wife he stole? Was it the shifty old fellow Lupus who had to depend on Quintus's goodwill despite their quarrel? Marcus Septimus believes that the matter is closed when one of Quintus's many enemies is found with blood on his clothing. However, Libertus thinks otherwise and whilst he dislikes meddling in political intrigue as it is bound to lead to an early grave he is sure that the explanation is not as lucid as it appears. Soon a second body is found and Libertus is aware that he needs to find the killer quickly as his life and that of others are in mortal danger. ... highly entertaining Romano-British thriller.
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The Chariots of Calyx

Libertus finds himself in Londinium at the invitation of the Roman Governor when news arrives of the brutal murder of Caius Monnius, the chief corn-officer. Libertus is asked to investigate but his enquiries lead him in disparate directions. Who is the guilty one? The keeper of the granaries? The sinister Calyx and Glaucus, managers of the best chariot racing team? Or Fortunatus, the handsome charioteer whose relations with the dead man's wife were reputed to be less than honourable? Not until Libertus finds a second corpse does he begin to understand what lies behind the corruption surrounding the interests of Monnius and the chariots of Calyx.
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The Legatus Mystery

When the body of an ambassador from Rome is discovered in the Imperial temple, Libertus is called in to investigate. But a mood of superstitious terror grips the town when the corpse disappears and unearthly wails are heard, and Libertus must unravel the mystery before they demand his blood.
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The Ghosts of Glevum

Glevum, AD 188: Despite the opulence of the evening’s banquet, Libertus is keen to return to his wife and a warm bed. But this feast has a finale to put any diner off his dessert – the guest of honour is found dead in the vomitorium. To Libertus’s horror, his patron Marcus Septimus is arrested on suspicion of murder. Then when Libertus is accused of being Marcus’s accomplice, he is forced to go on the run. Hiding in a dark corner of the city, he quickly realises he’s an unwelcome visitor to those who haunt the shadows. Soon Libertus is in danger, and this time there’s no one to help...
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Enemies of the Empire

It’s AD 188, and a tiresome three-day journey to the forested outskirts of the Empire is the last thing Libertus, freedman and pavement-maker, wants to make. Not only are there wolves and bears, but Celtic rebels may well regard the lone coach as fair game. But when Marcus Septimus asks Libertus to join him on official business, he knows he can’t refuse his benevolent patron. En route to the garrison town of Isca, they stop at Venta: a simmering cauldron of social unrest where the Silures tribe, loyal to the memory of former chief Caractacus, seethes under Roman occupation. In the busy market square, Libertus is shocked by the glimpse of a familiar face. His pursuit of the figure leads him down a dangerous path and, before he knows it, into a murky world of racketeering, treason and murder.
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A Roman Ransom

When magistrate Marcus Septimus's beloved wife and child are kidnapped, he turns to Libertus for help. Unless Marcus uses his power to release a certain political prisoner, he will never see his family alive again. Libertus is well aware of Marcus's dilemma: give in and sacrifice his reputation for standing firm against bribery, or refuse and provoke unimaginable consequences. But Libertus has also made a powerful enemy. How can he help his patron - and himself - this time?
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A Coin for the Ferryman

In Roman Britain, AD 189, every slave knows his lot in life depends solely on the morals -- or "lack "of morals -- of his master. Fortunately for one young Glevum slave, Junio, his owner, former slave turned pavement-maker Libertus, believes heartily in rewarding years of loyalty and service. Junio is to be granted his freedom in an elaborate ceremony at the Basilica Law Court. And what better moment than the manumission to announce the lad's engagement? But the young couple's happiness is threatened by a terrible omen: the gruesome discovery of a corpse, hastily concealed in a shallow grave. Who is it? And, more importantly, who will go to any lengths to cover up their heinous crime? Determined to solve the mystery before the impending nuptials, Junio joins his mentor Libertus in trying to piece together a truly masterful mosaic of murder!
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