- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (June 1 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312271204
- ISBN-13: 978-0312271206
- Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 2.7 x 21.7 cm
- Shipping Weight: 440 g
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,100,784 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
A Gladiator Dies Only Once: The Further Investigations of Gordianus the Finder Hardcover – Jun 1 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
As in The House of the Vestals (1997), Saylor's previous collection featuring Gordianus the Finder, these nine carefully researched stories cover the early phase of the ancient Roman sleuth's career, affording fans the chance to witness the growth of some important personal and political relationships, including Gordianus's connection with the legendary orator Cicero. Though Saylor's novels in this acclaimed series allow him more scope to describe settings and develop his secret Roman history, he still manages, especially in the book's highlights, "The Cherries of Lucullus" and "The White Fawn," to suspend disbelief and make all his characters feel real. Some story mysteries prove to have a noncriminal resolution, but the twisty fair-play plotting that marks Saylor's best novels (Catilina's Riddle; A Murder on the Appian Way; etc.) is very much in evidence, especially in "Archimedes's Tomb" and "Death by Eros." A partial chronology and historical notes round out this excellent volume.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Gordianus the Finder, one of several toga-clad sleuths in the mystery genre, operates by way of giving advice to the likes of consuls and senators in the final decades of the Roman Republic. Gordianus has picked apart political intrigues, murders, and money scams against a rich background of ancient Rome, including the Spartacus slave revolt, the siege of Massilia, and the love triangle of Caesar, Antony, and Cleopatra. All this action has taken place in the eight novels of the Roma Sub Rosa series and in a single collection of short stories. This is the second collection of stories, containing nine gems from Gordianus' early career. The nine stories all present intriguing puzzles, but, more impressive, they shine a revealing light on daily life in ancient Rome (e.g., the Romans' love of a fish-pickle paste called garnum, how they bet at chariot races, and how they use handkerchiefs to signal that a gladiator should live). In "The Consul's Wife," an item in the society section of the Daily Acts, the Roman newspaper, leaves Decimus Brutus convinced he is about to be murdered at the Circus Maximus. In "Something Fishy in Pompeii," Gordianus investigates the theft of his client's famed garnum recipe from a neighboring manufactory on the slopes of Etna. The title story centers on an excruciatingly vivid depiction of three gladiatorial contests that Gordianus attends with a squeamish Cicero following a funeral outside Rome. The stories are admirably varied--some are extensive mysteries; others offer short, sharp slices of life. All are marvelous reads in themselves and marvelous reflections of ancient Rome. Connie Fletcher
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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The Highlights that should be mentioned in this collection are
A Gladiator Dies Only Once-A commentary on arena fighting, gladiators and slavery in Rome which is way more fun and interesting then I am making it sound
The White Fawn-A friend of a friend hires The Finder to discover why his grandson has taken up with exiles and malcontents in Rome
If a Cyclops Could Vanish Overnight-Eco, still a boy at this point comes to his father with a problem some of his possessions have started to disappear
Death by Eros-Tells the tail of a vicious love triangle as usual it is up to the finder to determine who was spurned by whom.
Any time I get to visit Saylor's Rome it is a treat its true I prefer the books but this story collection is a very good contribution on its own merits. If you are a fan you should check it out.
In the first story, The Consul’s Wife, Gordianus is asked to investigate whether the newly elected consul Decimus Brutus is in danger of being murdered by his wife Sempronia. The story includes chariot races at the Circus Maximus, and it is a delight to read an accurate description of the races instead of something modeled after a Hollywood movie. If a Cyclops Could Vanish in the Blink of an Eye concerns Gordianus’ domestic life. Eco is missing some of his favorite toys (figurines of Cerberus, Cyclops etc) and there is no explanation of how they are disappearing. In The White Fawn, Gordianus undertakes dangerous mission to Spain to convince Lucius, the grandson of patrician Gaius Claudius, to return home. The young man has gone to Spain to join the rebellion of Sertorious, and Gordianus has to tread carefully so the rebels do not take him for a spy and the Roman troops seeking to destroy Sertorius do not mistake him for a rebel. Something Fishy in Pompeii is an entertaining story involving Lucius Claudius and something suspicious going on at his garum factory in Pompeii. Archimedes Tomb is an interesting story that takes place in Sicily, and brings back Cicero, who was serving a term as the Roman administrator of the western half of the island. Gordianus and Eco are visiting Sicily on business and are invited to dinner by Cicero, who has invited three Sicilians as well; dinner, however, leads to murder.
Death by Eros is a more straightforward murder mystery where a seemingly popular young man has been killed at a gymnasium, just after winning an athletic competition. The title story, A Gladiator Only Dies Twice, finds Gordianus in danger when he is hired to find the gladiator brother of a woman. The difficulty is that he was killed in a fight but apparently was seen alive. Life for Gordianus gets more complicated when the woman who hired him insists on accompanying him on the search. Poppy and the Poisoned Cake deals with an historical figure – Lucius Gellius Poplicola, who is one of the Censors. Poppy is fond of some cakes made by a local baker. One day, the slave who fetched the cake had a little taste and died on the spot, and Gordianus needs to find the would-be murderer while taking care to keep what he is doing a secret. The final story – The Cherries of Lucullus – involves the famous Roman general who defeated Mithradates. Gordianus is summoned to investigate a slave who may be trying to kill the general.
Steven Saylor is not only a superb writer of mysteries; he also deftly provides a history of Roman private life in his stories. In this volume, the reader finds out quite a lot about what it was like to attend a chariot race, the making of garum, a history lesson about Sicily, an interesting perspective on gladiatorial fighting, the functions of the office of Censor and how cherries were introduced to the western world. The only comment I have is that gladiators fought with a referee present who could stop the fighting, if necessary. Such a figure is not included in the title story. The story works better if there isn’t a referee but it is inaccurate to how gladiators fought. This aside, Mr. Saylor is a fabulous writer and one finishes one of his books looking forward to the next one.
Saylor never forgets that his first duty is to entertain, and in all of these stories he succeeds brilliantly. These stories are great fun. Highly recommended. RJB.