Murder in Aquitania
By Benoit Severac
Translated by Catherine E. Dop-Miller
Read How You Want, (2011)
EasyRead Large Print, in 16 Point Font (Originally Published in Standard Print by Enigma Books)
Genre: Historical Fiction, Crime Thriller
Reviewed by Harry S. Chou - October 28, 2011
Pax Romana: Murder in Aquitania is a historical murder mystery written by the French author, Benoît Séverac. This book was originally published in French under the title Les Chevelues. This edition was expertly translated into English by Catherine E. Dop-Miller.
Gauls and Romans mix freely in the town of Lugdunum Convenarum, located in the Roman province of Aquitania. Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars are ancient memories, but not forgotten. Yet, for a long time now, there as been peace between the Gauls and Romans, but still old animosities still simmer just under the surface. It is in everyone's interest for the Pax Romana (Roman peace) to continue, but sometimes fate takes a hand in events and things transpire differently than one would wish.
The peace in Lugdunum Convenarum is rudely broken when Cracius Vespasianus, a young and lichenous Roman nobleman is brutally murdered. Who killed Cracius, and why, is the question that drives this compelling narrative. On the one hand the Roman's are all to ready to blame the Gauls, thereby destroying the hard earned peace. Whereas the Gauls are equally sure that he was killed by a fellow Roman, for what cause would a Gaul have to kill a young man who spent all his time carousing with women and drinking himself into a stupor - he was no threat to them.
When Cracius's body is first discovered, the Roman centurion, Valerius Musa, who is tasked with the job of discerning how Cracius died is ordered to say he died from an accidental fall from his horse, despite the presence of a dagger sticking out of his back. This order, however, came from the former Roman senator, Hadrianus, who is now the First Magistrate of Lugdunum Convenarum. He was appointed to his position by the Emperor Augustus, and Valerius has no choice but to publicly obey, but that does not stop him from keeping his eyes open and doing a little investigating on his own. Things are taken out of both Valerius and Hadrianus hands when Cracius's body is examined by a doctor. The cause of his death can no longer be hushed up, and at last Valerius is given permission to investigate the case in earnest.
Unfortunately, for Valerius, his investigation is continually stymied by political machinations, as well as the animosities, real or imagined, that exist between the Gauls and their Roman overlords. Matters are further complicated by the arrival of an imperial magistrate who is determined to find the Gauls responsible for the crime, no matter who the real murderer is.
Pax Romana is a well-plotted and fast paced murder mystery infused with ancient Roman history and an accurately rendered setting that brings the city of Lugdunum Convenarum vividly to life. This is a book that will thrill fans of police procedurals, murder mysteries, and historical fiction, for elements of all three run deep throughout this novel. I don't want to say any more about the story than I have, for fear of robbing the reader of the joys of discovering for themselves just who did what, and why, and how these facts are uncovered. Suffice it to say, this is an enjoyable and thrilling book to read, and one which will have you staying up late into the night trying to finish it in one sitting. Although Séverac has written three other novels, this is the first to be translated into English. Hopefully it will not be the last!
Pax Romana is available from Read How You Want, an on-demand publisher that makes books available in a variety of formats including Braille, DAISY, and five different large print formats. This range of formats makes this, and other books, available not only to visually impaired individuals, but also anyone with a reading or physical disability that makes reading standard print books difficult.
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