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SPQR IV: The Temple of the Muses [Paperback]

John Maddox Roberts
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 13 1999 The SPQR Roman Mysteries (Book 4)
When Roman junior senator Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger has a chance to join a diplomatic mission to Alexandria, he welcomes the opportunity to temporarily elude his enemies in the Eternal City-even though it means leaving his beloved Rome. Decius is just beginning to enjoy the outpost's many exotic pleasures when the suspicious death of an irascible philosopher occurs, coinciding with the puzzling and apocalyptic ravings of a charismatic cult leader. Intrigued, Decius requests and is given permission by the Egyptian Pharaoh to investigate the heinous crime. What he discovers is beyond shocking. And when the corpse of a famous courtesan mysteriously turns up in his bed, Decius suddenly finds himself entangled in a web of conspiracy far more widespread and dangerous than he ever imagined-one that threatens to bring about the downfall of the entire Empire.

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SPQR IV: The Temple of the Muses + SPQR III: The Sacrilege
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"Wonderful...All the wild imaginative stimulation of the best detective fiction." --Marion Zimmer Bradley, author of The Mists of Avalon

From the Publisher

"Wonderful...All the wild imaginative stimulation of the best detective fiction." -Marion Zimmer Bradley, Author of THE MISTS OF AVALON

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I HAVE NEVER BEEN AMONG THOSE who think that it is better to be dead than to leave Rome. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Amusing Detective Yarn Sept. 23 2002
Decius Caecilius Metellus is the star of another series of detective fiction set in era of the Roman Republic. Like Lindsey Davis' Marcus Didius Falco series, it features a wise-guy sleuth who thankfully has the good grace not to think too highly of himself. Above all, Decius is human and is not above enjoying a good bout of drinking or a night of carousing in the one of the city's less reputable quarters. Told in the first person, his comments are snide, meant to amuse and soften the historical aspect of the novel by bringing it into the more modern perspective of current sensibilites regarding universal issues like cult religions, proper behavior or the octopus of the political bureaucracy.
In this particular offering, the historical phase of the story is particularly entertaining as it enlightens the reader with regard to the lost city of Alexandria. Decius is part of an envoy to the city of Alexandria, so we are privy to his first hand encounter of a city built on a grid, newer and so different from Rome. As Decius tours, so do we. We visit some of the wonders of the ancient world: the fabled great Library, the temple of the Muses (Museum) and the great Pharos lighthouse. Amidst this backdrop, Decius entertains with his impressions of the alien Hellenic Egyptians (Berenice, Cleopatra and Ptolemy) and the strange barbarian cults which are housed in foreign temples along Alexandia's wide thoroughfares. We are enlightened as to his thoughts of the more prominent Romans of his day: Julius Caesar, Crassius, Sulla and their progeny,Sulla's daughter. Fausta and Decius' fiance, Julia Minor, daughter of Lucius Caesar.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best of the series to date May 11 2002
By ilmk
SPQR IV is JMR's best offering of Decius Metellus the Younger. Having so often referred to circumstance or snooping imposed periods of exile we finally get to see how well Decuis travels.
And the result is as well as Todd's Claudia Seferius and better than Davis' Didius Falco.
This installment finds our erstwhile hero appearing as a Roman diplomat at Alexandria, in the Eyptian province. Ably supported by his slave Hermes and the great physician character, Asklepodies he is quickly joined by his now-confirmed betrothed Julia Minor and the female half of Sulla's twin children, Fausta.
As Decius and Julia wrly note towards the end, Decius gets tangled in a web of murder simply because it is, as Ptolemy the Flute-Player notes, his hobby. The murder, mayhem and rioting that he brings as part of his investigatory technique disrputs an entire city to the point that his denouement and great service to the Roman state is swiftly followed by him being tossed on the nearest ship to Rhodes. Never mind.
No venture into Alexandria can occur without philosophical ramblings (Decius' dry comments on the death of Archimedes to Antigones is extremely humorous) and they abound here in plenty, beginning with the death of the mathematician turned secret mechanics-dabbler Iphicrates.
The only thing that slightly disappoints and echoes the previous novel, is that the 'uncovering' is always lame. In this case the three culprits get together, write everything down and neatly recount everything they've done to the listening Decius. These people deserve to be caught if that's the case. You get the feeling JMR hadn't quite yet mastered the art of the murder mystery denouement in the same vein as that master of such - Agatha Christie.
Nevertheless, aside from a poor murder mystery ending, the rest of the tale is extremely good and the dry sardonic innocence of Decius 'snooping' is now firmly established making this tale very humorous.
Buy it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining departure Oct. 3 2001
Decius Caecilius Metellus has an odd penchant for using curiosity and logic to deduce grand political intrigues threatening the ancient Roman Republic. Decius's optimistic cynicism and amusing asides make for lively reading, but outrage the stolid Roman virtues of dignitas and gravitas expected of young Senators like him. Since Decius rarely succeeds in actually doing something against the powerful villains like Crassus, Pompey, or Caesar at the heart of this series (but not this interlude), he frequently finds it necessary to leave town. In this episode of his saga, the noble Roman family Caecilius Metellus is up to its ears in trouble again, but in Egypt rather than its usual Roman haunts. Decius is a minor functionary in the Roman embassy situated in the remarkable town of Alexandria, where he is soon nosing after murder in the famous Library, snooping on a new religious cult, questing after dreadful new engines of war, and attempting to save beautiful Egyptian princesses and even the puppet ruler Ptolemy. We also get a glimpse of the 10-year-old Cleopatra before she was quite able to snare her first Roman. Once again the plot spirals into politically catastrophic events--will Decius save the Roman-Egyptian alliance?--even though the events seem loosely plotted and made up, even fantastical, rather than more tightly historic as elsewhere in the series or in the tales of Steven Saylor. I find Decius quite a likeable character; I'm glad the series continues.
There's a didactic subtext to these stories: pay attention and we can learn much about the organization of Roman society and politics, its economic basis and strategic considerations (especially re Egypt in this book), and the origin of modern terms like politics or Muse-um.
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