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A novel of Caligula's Rome

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Book Review: Peter Tonkin's THE IDES

December 14, 2016 | from Sherry Christie's blog

THE IDES is a fast-paced thriller set just before and after the Ides of March in 44 BC, when a group of Roman Senators assassinated Julius Caesar before he was to set out for possible new conquests in Parthia. A superb general who showed uncommon generosity to defeated political rivals, Caesar was thought to harbor plans to rule Rome by himself. The conspirators believed leadership should remain with the Senate.

As the story starts, Caesar's right-hand man, Mark Antony, has deployed a number of spies in an attempt to uncover this suspected conspiracy. One of his spies is Artemidorus, a senior legion centurion disguised as a workman. We join Artemidorus in medias res as he escapes out a window with a slavegirl known only as "Puella," who may know details of the conspirators' plans.

From then on, author Peter Tonkin piles on the suspense as Artemidorus, Antony, and their allies try to dig up enough proof to persuade a skeptical and dignity-obsessed Caesar to stay home on the Ides. How they fail, and then help restore control of a Rome on the verge of panic, make an exciting tale.

Tonkin's style does take a bit of getting used to. Instead of using commas. As many of us would in order to link phrases. He tends to use periods. Aside from that, the author has clearly done a lot of research about the era, and the settings ring true. I do, however, hate seeing historical novels mangle the language of their chosen time (e.g., Artemidorus's parting shot, "Canicula mortuus est," should be "mortua est"). Still, this well-plotted historical novel will be hard for many readers to put down. (Disclosure: I received a free copy after requesting one from the publisher.)

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