Agent of Rome #3
Historical Fiction Roman Empire
Hodder & Stoughton
When the deputy commander of Rome’s Imperial Security Service is assassinated on the island of Rhodes, Cassius Corbulo swiftly finds himself embroiled in the investigation. Assisted once more by ex-gladiator bodyguard Indavara and servant Simo, his search for the truth is complicated by the involvement of the dead man’s headstrong daughter, Annia.
Cassius and his allies follow the assassin’s trail south aboard a ship captained by a roguish Carthaginian smuggler and manned by his disparate, dangerous crew. Their journey leads them to the farthest reaches of the empire; to a ruined city where the rules of Roman civilisation have long been abandoned, and where a deadly battle of wits with a brutal, relentless for, awaits.
Nick Brown doesn’t disappoint. He hasn’t before and he doesn’t here. This is an intense and intriguing book. Maybe a book of two halves, or a book of two levels.
Firstly, it’s an investigation, an official of the Roman M.I.VI (see what I did there?) has been killed. Not an accident, it looks like a professional hit. Clues and perpetrators are at a premium and Corbulo gets the hot potato dropped squarely in his lap. It took off feeling like a really good investigative novel – set 1600 years ago – like a Roman Columbo, or Barnaby (that’s good!). With Corbulo having to use his noggin to work out where to go to catch the killer. I suppose, after all the good work done before and after, the way they finally find the person is a little, erm…fortuitous. Still, you could argue a good investigator makes sure he is in the right place at the right time.
Then it’s a look at the life on the edge, an edge becoming edgier, moving away from influence of the Empire. A really interesting look at what that entailed, when Rome and Roman ‘civilisation’ was both a distant memory, and a long ship journey away. Then, it’s a look at a real, nasty bastard (OK three levels). An incredible character plucked from the deepest, darkest recesses of Mr Brown’s mind. As far as I’ve read the Agent of Rome books (four so far), this one is the first who had Idavara scratching his head in wonder. Absolutely brilliantly written character and the scenes in the second half featuring all that has gone wrong, is some of the finest, tensest you’ll come across.
Each novel of the Agent of Rome series (the four I’ve read so far) has been pretty much self-contained) so you could read them starting wherever you liked and still get the maximum out of them. They are set chronologically, so that works if you start with The Siege, but it’s absolutely not a problem if you don’t. Dive in, go back and get excited.
*It has got to be asked…who IS the character on the front of the books supposed to be? It can’t be Indavara, as the person is in Roman uniform. It can’t be Corbulo, as he hardly knows one end of a sword from the other and in The Far Shore, begins sword lessons from Indavara…so, who?!
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