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The House of the Vestals: The Investigations of Gordianus the Finder [Mass Market Paperback]

Steven Saylor
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Aug. 15 1998 Novels of Ancient Rome (Book 6)
It is Ancient Rome, and Gordianus the Finder has a knack for finding trouble. Stalking about the city's twisting trails looking for clues and finding bodies, Gordianus has had his share of misadventure with nobles and slaves alike. Known to many as the one man in the ancient world who can both keep a secret and uncover one, Gordianus has stories to tell.

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Product Description

From Booklist

Saylor serves up a collection of short stories designed to fill in some of the gaps that have piqued the curiosity of devoted fans of his popular Roma Sub Rosa series. Set between the years 80 and 72 B.C., these nine tales document some of the early adventures of Gordianus the Finder. During the course of these cases, Gordianus establishes firm and tender relationships with Eco, his adopted son; Bethesda, his Jewish-Egyptian concubine; Belbo, his loyal manservant and bodyguard; and Lucius Claudius, his generous patron. While each brief mystery presented is a gem in and of itself, readers will delight in the informational overview provided by the collection as a whole. As usual, Saylor does a superb job of seamlessly incorporating the tumultuous history of the Roman Republic into the narrative flow. A welcome addition to the ever fascinating chronicles of Gordianus the Finder. Margaret Flanagan --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Kirkus Reviews

It's no wonder Gordianus the Finder solves so many of these nine cases in a single flash of insight. Most of the mysteries aren't very mysterious; even Gordianus' slave (and future wife) Bethesda picks out the thief of his friend Lucius Claudius' silver the minute she hears the story. Still, three groups of readers will find these stories irresistible: history buffs who appreciate Saylor's careful research into Roman politics and Roman mores; fans of his five novels (A Murder on the Appian Way, 1996, etc.) who want to find out how he first became Lucius Claudius' friend, or how he acquired his faithful slave Belbo; and anyone who enjoys leisurely, literate storytelling. Though none of the stories is more than five years old, nearly half (``A Will Is a Way,'' ``The Lemures,'' ``King Bee and Honey,'' ``The Alexandrian Cat'') have already been anthologized. All the others could well follow. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars An underrated gem for the Saylor enthusiast. May 2 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
A worthy contribution to the historical mystery genre (if such a classification exists), "The House of the Vestals" exhibits both the detective skills of Gordianus the Finder and the remarkable writing ability of his creator to telling effect.
As Saylor himself points out in the foreword, some of his readers may have found themselves wondering what happened to the Roman sleuth between the years 80 BC (the setting of his first novel, "Roman Blood") and 72 BC (the year of the Spartacan slave revolt, as described in the sequel "Arms of Nemesis"). "The House of the Vestals" provides the answer, filling in the eight-year gap with nine intriguing short cases that test Gordianus' wits and leave the reader yearning for more.
Four of the stories are based, in varying degrees, on real events (in accordance with Saylor's acknowledged writing style) while the rest dwell on aspects of Roman life that have come down from us through the ancient sources. "The House of the Vestals" -- the closing story from which the entire anthology derives its name -- is by far the most faithful to history, inspired by the allegations of unchastity levelled against two Vestal Virgins and their alleged paramours by the demagogue Publius Clodius in 73 BC. Some of the characters in this and the stories preceding it have featured in Saylor's other novels, ensuring that this "flashback" addition to an otherwise chronologically released series maintains full relevance all throughout Roma Sub Rosa and throwing in a bit of irony as to the eventual fate of recurrent figures.
True enough, the stories included in the anthology are far too short for those (myself included) who may have gotten used to long-winded plots and vast settings in Saylor's other works.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Quickie Roman Holidays Feb. 24 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This collection of short stories about Gordianus the Finder, the Philip Marlow of the Roman Empire, shows how a fine hand at historical research can enliven the most traditional and well-tilled of genres.
Because these tales of murder, fraud and revenge would sound familiar to those who have read enough short stories, but Saylor has recast these stories with personalities, attitudes and customs that are foreign to us, and read much fresher than they would otherwise. Take for instance there's the story of the wealthy man's son who attempts to emulate Julius Caesar's arrogant behavior when he was captured by pirates. Gordianus is hired to deliver the ransom. It is easy to tell who instigated the kidnaping and why, but the story still compels us follow the thread to the end.
It helps that Gordianus is a compelling character, a man who makes a living investigating the dark side of the Roman Republic, when Julius Caesar was still a politician aspiring to become a divine dictator. He is aided sometimes by Bethesda, his Egyptian slave who sometimes acts more like his wife. Even his mute adopted son, Eco, plays a crucial role in the story of the actor murdered backstage during a performance.
The Roman era has been well-served by writers such as Saylor and Lindsay Davis. For those interested in the era who haven't made Gordianus' acquaintance, this book offers an ideal introduction.
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Format:Mass Market Paperback
I can't get enough of Steven Saylor's Gordianus the Finder, and this marvelous collection of short stories was like opening a box of Godiva chocolates - each one is delicious! I have read nearly all of the Roma Sub Rosa series featuring the wonderfully human, intelligent, and dedicated Gordianus, and come to think of him almost as an extended family member. For other Gordianus-aholics, this collection of stories nicely fills in the gaps left in the longer novels - finally we find out all about the night Catilina raped a Vestal...or did he? We hear Gordianus' sexy, sassy slave (now wife) tell tales of her native Alexandria, and we learn all about Lucius. But the best part of this collection is you need no previous experience with Gordianus to have a rollicking good time. As Gordianus winds through the streets of ancient Rome, exposing frauds, murderers, and thieves, you will be caught up in the spell Saylor's crisp writing always weaves. Warning: clear some shelf space. Once you're hooked on Gordianus, you'll want to read them all.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fill-in-the-blanks mysteries April 17 2001
By Minsma
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is a collection of short stories centering around Gordianus the Finder, Saylor's Ancient Roman "detective" first featured in his novel, *Roman Blood.* Chronologically, these stories fall within the eight years separating the first novel and the second, *Arms of Nemesis.* The collection is useful in finding out what has happened in Gordianus's life in the interim (and some events which will come into play in later novels): how Gordianus met his noble friend Lucius Claudius and Belbo the bodyguard; how he decided to adopt Eco; watching Eco grow up from age 10 to 18; how Gordianus first met Catilina (featured in novel #3, *Catilina's Riddle*). There are some nice character details, such as a taste of young Gordianus during his days in Alexandria; another story which allows slave-concubine, Bethesda, to solve a mystery; and a tale (told by Bethesda) about an Egyptian king, a thief and a courtesan which may explain why Gordianus sometimes says he's not sure if he picked Bethesda for his concubine or she picked him.
The stories range from simple fables to interesting mysteries and all are enjoyable--sometimes amusing, sometimes tragic, sometimes both at once. Their chief attraction for me was how they advanced the character development for the series as a whole. I like Saylor a great deal, but it is frustrating that there are such large time gaps between his novels. There's an even larger gap (nine years) between *Arms of Nemesis* and the third book, *Catilina's Riddle,* and so far nothing like *The House of the Vestals* to bridge that gap. This novel series is otherwise remarkable and entertaining, and I can only hope that Saylor will produce another collection of bridging stories soon for those of us who like to watch story and character unfold gradually.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Great book, bad price
This is a fantastic book in a very good series. But why is the kindle price 300% of what the new paperback price is? Until it is equal or less than that price, I won't buy it.
Published 21 months ago by Ben
3.0 out of 5 stars The personal history of Gordianus
Saylor's book is a collection of short stories the outline the personal history of Gordianus through some of his cases. Read more
Published on Aug. 12 2010 by scuba sally
5.0 out of 5 stars Even his short fiction in this series shines!
I've loved Steven W. Saylor's work even before he published under this name and his Gordianus series is better by far. Read more
Published on Oct. 21 2002 by TammyJo Eckhart
4.0 out of 5 stars breezy, enjoyable stories; consider them Saylor-Light
The House Of The Vestals is very enjoyable collage of ancient Roman mystery stories loosely based on either real history or ancient folklore. Read more
Published on May 13 2002 by lazza
5.0 out of 5 stars Delight yourself while accompanying Gordianus
Fans of Gordianus, the Finder will be happy to get a hold of this book right away. It includes nine short stories in chronological order to be read after "Roman Blood"... Read more
Published on April 16 2001 by Karina A. Suarez
3.0 out of 5 stars Great fun
This collection of short mysteries all feature Gordianus from Ancient Rome. I haven't read any of Saylor's other books, so I can't connect them to his others, but I certainly am... Read more
Published on April 1 2001 by "blissengine"
4.0 out of 5 stars A good selection of short stories
These collection of short stories by Steven Saylor add new insights into the character of Gordianus the finder as he begins his investigating career in ancient Rome. Read more
Published on Jan. 11 2000 by redhawk
5.0 out of 5 stars more to the point than the novels
For those who think - probably rightly so - that Mr. Saylor uses more pages than necessary for the story in his novels, this collection of short stories should be the choice. Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2000 by Werner Kattinger
3.0 out of 5 stars short whodunit stories from a writer of historical novels
Roaming the Internet a couple of months ago I stumbled across "The House of the Vestals", a new title by Steven Saylor. Ordering the book via Amazon. Read more
Published on Aug. 8 1998
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