An Audio-Book Review: How Topical: a Political Rebellion

Catalina’s Riddle

By Steven Saylor
Published by Blackstone Audio
Read by Scott Harrison

The Book:

Once upon a time there was a politician. He was hated by his enemies and beloved by the trod-on masses who followed him even though, like his enemies he was one of the rich, elite class of the land. His enemies said he appealed to all that was worst of the common people, using their fears and hatreds to further his own greedy political goals. He was accused to making sexual advances to women regardless of the propriety of the time, place or person. His own words were used against him to show that he would betray his entire country to her international enemies and in fact his peers freely called him a traitor.

No, his name was not Donald J. Trump, although there are some parallels to be drawn.

It has been a while since I reviewed anything by Steven Saylor, not because I do not enjoy his stories, for the most part (in fact I enjoy most of them quite a lot), but because I had not been listening to them recently. Why not? Well, in my goal to produce one new review each week, I rarely have a chance to go back and listen to one of my old favorites. This book, which seems amazingly apropos to the current political climate in the USA is the third in Steven Saylor’s Roma Sub Rosa series featuring the detective from the late Roman Republic, Gordianus the Finder.

In this book, Gordianus has retired from his work as a “Finder: and is now living on a fine Etruscan country estate, bequeathed to him by his old friend and patron Lucius Claudius. You might think that now that he is out of the back alleys and fora of Roma he might be able to settle back and enjoy life, but… Ha! That would make for a very boring story. Gordianus might be merely trying to improve and enjoy his inheritance, but his neighbors are all Claudians who not only resent the land going to a non-relative, but who each thought the land ought to have been given to them and at least one of them is actively trying to change that situation. Robert Graves’ in I, Claudius and the sequel repeatedly said that there were two types of apples that grew on the Claudian tree, the sweet and the crabs. Gordianus is surrounded by crabs. And yet, that is not the main story.

Gordianus’ old friend and sometimes employer pays him a visit to enlist him in a plan that he hopes will keep that ancient Trump-clone under control. And who is this Trumpian menace? Lucius Sergius Catalina (also known as Cataline), who is currently running against Cicero for the Consulship of Rome. Cicero who represents all the finest people of Rome sees Catalina as a threat to national security and fears that his administration would not only destroy Rome, but Cicero suspects Catalina would fail to acknowledge Cicero as the winner if Catalina loses the election and that the he would raise up an army of the people in his attempt to take over the Republic. Does any of this sound familiar? (History scholars, put your hands down! J )

In any case, all Gordianus has to do is allow Catalina to stay at his farm when passing through. The problem is, Catalina seems like a pretty nice and charismatic guy and as the visits continue, Gordianus find himself liking Catalina who it appears like to pose riddles. However, when Catalina poses a riddle involving a headless corpse and then just such a corpse shows up on Gordianus’ farm, the Finder must solve Catalina’s riddle for the good of the Roman Republic.

It’s a very good story and I recommend it to devotees of both historical fiction and mysteries alike.


The Audiobook:

Once again Scott Harrison turns in a very listenable performance and one that fits Gordianus’ character perfectly. I said in an earlier reviews that sometimes it seems like all ancient Romans speak with a British accent and while I realized that was because so many books by or about them seem to be read (or enacted) by British actors. To my very Yankee ear, the British theater accent used sounds right because to me it sounds like the way a Roman patrician might speak if he or she spoke English. It sounds rich. However Gordianus is a plebian and the more American (and common to me) accent of Scott Harrison fits him better. Of course, I like this book enough that I would probably enjoy it if the reader was British, but I’m very glad to have this recording of the book.

An enjoyable booj with an equally enjoyable reader.

This entry was posted in Audio Books, Books, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Reviews, Steven Saylor and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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