Audiobook Review- Roma Sub Rosa Short Stories

A series of short-stories to fill in the life-story gaps of Rome’s most skilled ‘Finder’!

If you’re already a fan of Steven Saylor’s Roma Sub Rosa series, featuring B.C’s most skilled detective – Gordianus the Finder – then you’ll love the short-story collection ‘The House of the Vestals’ and ‘A Gladiator Dies Only Once’!

I first stumbled upon Steven Saylor’s Roma Sub Rosa series over a decade ago, I was probably searching the keyword of ‘Ancient Rome’, and found and read The Venus Throw- the 9th in the Roma Sub Rosa series. And over the subsequent years, I’ve read a further 6 novels from the Roma Sub Rosa series all out of sequence- so naturally I just blamed myself when the life-story of Gordianus seemed jumbled and seemed like I’d missed chunks of his life-story, i.e. the growth of his family and the growth of his assets/wealth. But now I’ve learnt that regardless of the order in which I experienced them, there were always gaps in Gordianus’ tale, and Steven Saylor’s 2 short-stories compilations (written in ’97 and ’05) have been designed to fill in those chronological gaps.

The House of the Vestals (80-72 B.C.)

It is ancient Rome, and Gordianus the Finder has a knack for finding trouble. Known to many as the one man in the ancient world who can both keep a secret and uncover one, Gordianus lays bare some of his most intriguing and compelling adventures. The House of the Vestals collects nine of the award-winning Stories of Gordianus the Finder, filling in some of the gaps between novels and revealing the intrigues in the secret history of Rome. In “Little Caesar And the Pirates”, Gordianus must act as a go-between for kidnappers, but he begins to wonder who is really being held hostage. In “The Alexandrian Cat”, a mischievous girl and a tell-tale sneeze reveal an ingenious plot of murder and thievery. In “The House of the Vestals” blackmail goes horribly wrong, and there is no one to take the blame.

A Gladiator Dies Only Once (77-64 B.C.)

A Gladiator Dies Only Once is the second collection of short stories featuring Gordianus the Finder. Set between the events of his novels Roman Blood and Catilina’s Riddle, these nine stories are previously untold adventures from the early career of Gordianus, when his adopted son, Eco, was still a mute boy, and his wife, Bethesda, was but his slave. Included are “The Consul’s Wife,” which involves a twisted search for truth behind a threatening blind item in the Act Diurna. In “The White Fawn,” Gordianus must deal with a kidnapping and murder during the revolt of Sertorius. “Archimedes’ Tomb” tells the story behind Cicero’s discovery of Archimedes’ tomb. Finally, “If a Cyclops Could vanish in a Blink of an Eye” brings up a perplexing domestic situation in Gordianus’ own home. 

Upon reflection, I think what I like the most about Steven Saylor’s style, and why his Ancient Roman mysteries are such page turners for me, is due largely to Steven Saylor’s ability to paint a vivid and convincing picture of Ancient Rome for his reader – thus transporting you and I back to the B.Cs. His attention to detail is so pedantic that I feel as if I’ve lived through the toga and dagger toting Republic days! By no means are Steven Saylor’s mysteries complex, as half of the short-stories you can guess the end outcome, but it is still a thrill and delight when Gordianus eventually solves the mystery as the reveal is so worth it! And a final mention is to Steven Saylor’s ability to use traditional Latin terms and in their original context in his writing, which both educates and astonishes me when I learn of how the original word was intended and used.

Unfortunately the Roma Sub Rosa series is not available from Audible, the original audiobooks were produced by Blackstone Audio (Ashland, Oregon). However following the above links will hopefully help you to get your hands on a copy, either as a physical paperback book or as a Compact Disc set.

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