Saturday, July 12, 2008

Illigally Dead by David Wishart

This fast paced and engrossing Marcus Corvinus installment finds Marcus and his wife, Perilla, visiting the small town of Castrimonenium, in order to figure out whether or not a local lawyer was murdered.

When Marcus and Perilla receive a letter from their adopted daughter, Marilla, intimating that a murder may have been committed in the town she's currently residing in, they immediately make for Castrimoneium in order to get more information. It turns out that the lawyer, Lucius Hostillius has succumbed to a heart seizure and has passed away. But Lucius' doctor, Hyperion, is not satisfied and fears that someone may have tampered with the dosage. The trouble is that in accordance of Roman law, if Hyperion voices his suspicions, Lucius' household slaves would be rounded up and tortured in order to prise information from them. And Hyperion would rather not say anything unless the evidence that Lucius had been "helped" to his death is conclusive. And so he asks Marcus Corvinus to look into the matter. But Marcus will have to work on the quiet so as not to arouse the interest of the authorities. Can our intrepid investigator pull this off?

I've been a fan of this series ever since I read Ovid. But I have to admit that fan though I am, I haven't read every single installment in this series. What I have read I have liked immensely; finding the books to be well written, finely paced, taut and full of wonderful historical detail and ambiance. This is all true of Illegally Dead. David Wishart does a first rate job here of executing and fleshing out this tale and of keeping one guessing as to what exactly is going on and who the guilty parties are. All in all this was a very engrossing and absolutely riveting read -- even as I confess that a couple of thing grated: namely that Marcus seemed to jump to some rather premature assumptions about his suspects based solely on his reactions towards them (and had to be talked around to sense by Perilla); and that I found Marcus' 'tough' street voice to be a little incongruous and a little false. Would a patrician have such a narrative voice? I'm going to have to reread Ovid in order to find out.

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