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Catilina's Riddle by Steven Saylor
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Catilina's Riddle (original 1993; edition 1994)

by Steven Saylor

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Member:literarytech
Title:Catilina's Riddle
Authors:Steven Saylor
Info:Fawcett (1994), Mass Market Paperback, 480 pages
Collections:Main Library
Rating:****
Tags:Mystery, Historical Fiction, Rome

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Catilina's Riddle by Steven Saylor (Author) (1993)

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» See also 21 mentions

English (10)  Swedish (3)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  All languages (16)
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Gordianus the Finder is relishing living in semi retirement in the countryside, or so he thinks! It seems you can never be too far away from the political intrigue of the Forum. Gordianus is at his curmudgeonly best accompanied by a delightfully varied cast of characters. ( )
  cathymoore | Oct 14, 2013 |
Gordianus calls himself the Finder. We would call him a gumsandal. He helps politicians uncover scandal about their opponents; he helps advocates collect evidence of an enemy's crimes, but he is discouraged that he seems no longer able to serve truth and justice. Rome has become a city of corruption and evil. Fortunately, he has inherited a lovely farm in the country with an adequate supply of slaves to run it.

Such is the setting for Catalina's Riddle. Gordianus has forsaken Rome with its corrupt politics. When his loyalty to Cicero is appealed to ostensibly by one of Cicero's henchmen, who insists that the Finder's assistance is needed to keep tabs on Catilina's nefarious intentions, Gordianus refuses, only to discover a headless corpse in his barn a few days later. How could the body have been placed there without the knowledge of his family or slaves? He calls on his son, Eco, from Rome, for assistance. Eco has his father's uncanny ability to observe the smallest details.

Soon Catilina shows up at Gordianus' farm allegedly for rest and relaxation, but he exhibits extraordinary interest in an old silver mine filled to overflowing with the skeletons of slaves who had been murdered when the mine was shut down The mine also happens to be located on Gnaeius Claudius' property next to Gordianus' farm, and the Claudius family are still enraged that their ancestor should have left property to Gordianus that they felt should have rightly gone to them.

Gordianus travels to Rome for his son Meto's coming of age: he will become a full citizen with the right to wear the toga. It also happens to be the time of the election, and Saylor treats us to a vivid account of how Roman elections were conducted. But Gordianus has a problem. Marcus Caelius who claims to be Cicero's secret agent pretending to work for Catilina; but his actions betray a more sincere attachment to Catilina woos him. Who is he really working for?

Saylor integrates some of the actual speeches delivered by Cicero before the Senate into the story. The historical record is mostly antagonistic to Catilina; Saylor's tale is much more ambiguous.
A very good mystery in a fascinating setting. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
A mystery taking place in ancient Rome with detailed descriptions of home life, the ritual of a boy reaching the age of manhood, and the politics and system of elections of the time help turn this little mystery into a major historical fiction. Gordianus, the Finder, was left a farm in the country outside Rome from a friend. This farm, complete with its own slaves, is surrounded by properties owned by the dead man's cousins, not a little upset that none of them were left the property. Gordianus is at a point in his life that he has had enough of city life and is happy to leave his oldest son, Eco, behind and take his wife, Bethesday, and his other children, Meto, age 15, and Diana, age 9.

Headless bodies start turning up on his property at the same time that he has received a messenger from Cicero advising him to receive Cicero's opponent, Catalina, if he should show up at the farm. Is there a relationship between these two events?

Gordianus' home life and life in pre-Caesar's Rome add to the story and double the pleasure of reading this book. ( )
1 vote mamzel | Feb 25, 2012 |
Catalina's Riddle is the first book by Steven Saylor that I've read, and I found it engrossing despite its length. As far as I can tell the course of events was strictly accurate, and the historical characters did and said what they are reported to have done and said in (generally) contemporary sources (except in private conversations). While Gordianus and his family are certainly unlikely, the book contains a minimum of anachronisms, for those who care about such things.

While the book includes a respectable mystery, the more intriguing elements have to do with characterization and human relationships, which Saylor handles with more sophistication than the typical genre author. Catilina--also known as Cataline--has been reviled for centuries for the "Catiline Conspiracy". But who was he really, and what did he actually stand for? And what did he have to do with the bodies without heads that show up on Gordianus' farm? ( )
  IreneF | Sep 20, 2010 |
Gordianus the Finder now has a farm in the Etruscan countryside. He abandons the city, taking his family with him.

Cicero is becoming more and more embroiled in Roman politics, with all it's mud slinging and complications. He embroils Gordianus in this by asking for a favour. This starts off a course of events that will drag Gordianus back into the corruption and intrigue he was avoiding.

In places the mystery seemed to be subsumed by the details about Rome and Roman politics, not my favourite of the series. Not a bad read but it was pretty slow going and I almost wanted to abandon it a few times. Yes I will continue with the series, but that's almost more because I have the books than really having a huge urge to. ( )
  wyvernfriend | Oct 31, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
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Saylor, StevenAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hjukström, CharlotteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Embossed upon the shield Aeneas saw

The stony halls of the netherworld, the domain of the damned

And the punishments they suffer. There Catilina clings to the edge of a sheer

Precipice, cringing in terror while the Furies beat their wings about him . . .

VIRGIL, The Aeneid,
VIII: 666-669
How haue we chang'd and come about

in every doome,

Since wicked CATILINE went out,

And quitted Rome?

One while, we thought him innocent;

And, then w'accus'd

The Consul, for his malice spent;

And power abus'd.

Since, that we heare, he is in armes

We thinke not so:

Yet charge the Consul, with our harmes

That let him goe:

So, in our censure of the state,

We still do wander;

And make the careful magistrate

The marke of slander.

Ben Jonson, Catiline his Conspiracy,
ACT IV: 863-878
What is truth?

PONTIUS PILATUS
Dedication
To the Shade of My Mother
First words
"According to Cato . . ." I said, and paused, squinting at the scroll.
Quotations
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312982119, Mass Market Paperback)

Using scholarly historical insight and evocative storytelling that brings to life the glories of ancient Rome, Steven Saylor takes the reader from the bloody lines of clashing Roman armies to the backrooms of the Senate floor, where power-hungry politicians wrestle the Fates for control of Rome's destiny.

With the consular election drawing near, Rome is fiercely divided between the conservative Cicero and the tempestuous Catilina, whose followers are rumored to be plotting a blood-thirsty siege for power if their leader fails to win office.

Gordianus the Finder, retired to his Etruscan farm, is happy to be free of the intrigue and danger of the capital. But when his old friend Cicero enlists the Finder in an elaborate plot to control Catilina, Gordianus is drawn back into a familiar world. Now caught in a cloak-and-dagger political struggle for the fate of the Republic, Gordianus finds himself strangely drawn to the controversial candidate. Is Catilina really a subversive renegade, or are Cicero suspicions part of an even greater conspiracy? When a headless corpse ominously appears on his farm, Gordianus knows he must unlock the secret of Catilina's Riddle before Rome tears herself apart.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:18 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

While keeping watch on a radical populist senator for his mentor, Cicero, Gordianus finds a headless corpse in his stables, in a story of conspiracy and murder set in ancient Rome.

(summary from another edition)

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